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Gymnastics Headline

The Gators celebrate their first SEC title since 1989.

Saturday March 31, 2007No. 1 Florida Gymnasts Win First SEC Title Since 1989

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark.

The Gators celebrate their first SEC title since 1989.

The No. 1 University of Florida gymnastics team (21-0-1, 5-0-1 SEC) used steady performances throughout Saturday’s competition to claim its first Southeastern Conference team title since 1989 and sixth overall. Since UF last claimed the SEC title, the league championships have been dominated by Georgia and Alabama. Georgia (2006, '05, '04, '02, ’01, ’99, ’98, ’97, ’96, ’94, ’93, ’92, ’91) and Alabama (2003, ‘00, '95, ’90) have claimed the league crowns from 1989-2006.

 

Florida used its highest team score ever in SEC Championship competition (197.325) to claim the title. Two-time defending NCAA champion Georgia was second at 197.175, followed by Alabama (197.00) and LSU (196.25). Rounding out the results of Saturday’s meet held in front of an Alltel Arena crowd of 5,134 was Arkansas (194.55), Auburn (194.475) and Kentucky (194.00).

 

UF’s Rhonda Faehn was named the SEC Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season. The Gator gymnastics team has held the No. 1 ranking for all but one week of the 2007 season. This was the first time UF had ever brought the No. 1 ranking into the SEC Championships. Amanda Castillo is the SEC Freshman of the Year, becoming the third Gator to win the award (Orley Szmuch, 2002, Betsy Hamm 1998). Castillo also won the evening’s floor exercise title at 9.95. She is the first Gator to win a SEC event title since Chrissy Van Fleet (balance beam) in 1999 and the first to claim the floor crown since Melissa Miller and Pam Titus shared the 1989 title. Other SEC award winners Saturday included Georgia junior Katie Heenan being named the SEC Gymnast of the Year and Auburn junior Julie Dwyer earning the SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

 

The Gators and the GymDogs were in a battle throughout the meet, exchanging the lead in the first two events, but the score was deadlocked after three events. Florida finished on floor, posting its highest road floor total of 2007 (49.45) and matching the ninth highest floor total in school history. The Gators watched the final rotation, knowing the GymDogs were capable of matching or bettering that mark on UGA’s final event of the uneven bars. But UGA tallied a 49.30 on the event to give UF its winning margin of .15.

 

“It was just unbelievable the way our athlete competed with so much heart and determination tonight. We made mistakes here and there, but it was just unbelievable to see that they didn’t let any of those get to them. They just kept fighting back and fighting back,” Faehn said. “There was just so much passion. We proved that this team has the heart and the determination to win. They came back, even though they made mistakes and they just didn’t give in.”

 

Perhaps it was the video the team watched prior to warm-up that helped give them the drive to keep fighting tonight. UF Football Coach Urban Meyer, who had spoken to the team prior to their final practice in Gainesville on Wednesday, shared the video that the football team watched prior to its BCS National Championship game in January. The team watched the video again prior to heading out for Saturday’s warm-ups.

 

Florida opened the meet by matching its second-highest vault team total (49.30) for the fourth time this season. UF was led by a pair of 9.90s from Corey Hartung and Ashley Reed, which tied for fourth overall. The mark was a collegiate-best for Hartung, who was making just her fifth vault appearance of the season.

Gators on All-SEC Team

All-SEC First or Second Team

Name

Event

Place/Score

First

Ashley Reed

All-Around

T3rd 39.525

Second

Corey Hartung

All-Around

6th 39.45

Second

Amanda Castillo

Uneven Bars

T2nd 9.90

Second

Melanie Sinclair

Uneven Bars

T2nd 9.90

First

Amanda Castillo

Floor Exercise

1st 9.95

 

 

The Gators used marks of 9.80 or above to post a team total of 49.275 on the uneven bars. Castillo and Melanie Sinclair anchored the UF lineup with a pair of 9.90 to tie for second overall.

 

The first five Gators turned in hit balance beam routines, as Florida tallied a 49.30 on the event. Senior Breanne King and Reed each posted 9.875 to be among a seven-way tie for fourth in the final standings. Katie Rue, Sinclair and Hartung each posted marks of 9.85.

 

Florida led all schools with its 49.50 floor score to finish the meet. Castillo led UF with her 9.95 to claim the title. Hartung posted a 9.90 to tie for fourth and the Gators received a 9.875 from both Rue and Reed (tie for sixth overall).

 

Samantha Lutz, one of Florida’s five member senior class, was elated UF won the title Saturday.

 

“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. It is amazing, especially for these seniors. We knew we had a shot at it and we came out here and did our job,” Lutz said. “We stayed cool and we kept our energy up. This is the greatest feeling I’ve felt in gymnastics.”

 

The SEC Gymnastics Championships will be broadcast Monday, April 9 at 8 p.m. (ET) on Sun Sports.

 

Next up, the Gators await Monday’s announcement by the NCAA at 2 p.m. (ET) of team assignments for the six NCAA Regional sites. The NCAA Regional Championships are set for April 14. The top two teams at each of the six sites will advance to the NCAA Championships, set for April 26-28 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

 

No. 1 Florida at the Southeastern Conference Championships

Alltel Arena (5,134) – North Little Rock, Ark. – March 31, 2007

 

Vault

Bars

Beam

Floor

Rank

Total

Florida

49.300

49.275

49.300

49.450

1

197.325

Georgia

49.475

49.300

49.375

49.025

2

197.175

Alabama

49.250

49.150

49.325

49.275

3

197.000

LSU

49.450

48.925

48.575

49.300

4

196.250

Arkansas

49.000

48.825

47.850

48.875

5

194.550

Auburn

48.900

48.675

48.175

48.725

6

194.475

Kentucky

48.050

48.450

48.525

48.975

7

194.000

 

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