Inside Florida’s newly renovated $4.3 million practice facility, the gymnasts mean business.
Losing by a margin of 0.3 points to LSU on Friday in the season’s first road meet left a sour taste in the team’s mouth, but the loss has pushed UF to perform more aggressively.
“In practice we’ve been focusing on going big on everything and not holding anything back,” Ashanee Dickerson said. “You can’t hold back on your skills. Some people will go small just to stay on the beam, and sometimes that’s where you’ll make mistakes.”
During Friday’s meet, uncharacteristic misses by freshman Bridget Sloan and All-American Marissa King forced the Gators to count a fall towards their beam total for the first time since the 2011 NCAA Championships. Sloan was participating in the event for the first time at the college level.
The defeat was Florida’s first regular-season loss since Feb. 3, 2012, against Alabama.
“It’s better to have it over and done with right now because now we know that we can only go up from here,” Dickerson said.
Coach Rhonda Faehn noted a rise in energy since the Gators returned to Gainesville.
“We’ve really had some great practices,” Faehn said. “Sunday was very motivational and we studied our film footage, and of course they weren’t thrilled with their performances in total. They’ve really trained aggressively, and yesterday was another positive training practice.”
Kytra Hunter, a quiet leader, has been more vocal this week.
“We came in this week to fix little mistakes — more stuck landings or straight legs and pointed toes,” Hunter said.
Hunter also applauded the efforts of junior Mackenzie Caquatto, who suffered a fall on one of her signature events — uneven bars.
Still, Caquatto came back to record a score of 9.95 — UF’s season-best total — to claim the evening’s balance beam title.
Caquatto was one of three Gators to share the team’s high mark of 9.95 in 2012. Both Caquatto and Alaina Johnson advanced to the NCAA bar final last season.
“After the meet, Rhonda was saying that mistakes like that [are] something she wants to see — us trying to be the best,” Hunter said.
Faehn noted that the lack of stuck landings and handstand misses on bars contributed to Florida’s loss.
The addition of HD video recorders and monitors at each work station will provide instant feedback. With a loss looming over the program, Faehn is confident the new features will be useful.
“It’s amazing because our athletes are able to visualize and actually see what they did wrong, and it helps reinforce corrections,” Faehn said.
Florida welcomes Southeastern Conference newcomer Missouri on Friday at 7 p.m. in the O’Connell Center.