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Sophomore Hunter shines in loss to LSU

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Posted: Monday, January 14, 2013 12:00 am

Florida’s gymnastics team  waited patiently for the final team scores Friday evening in Baton Rouge, La.

The final results went down to the wire. 

No. 8 LSU topped No. 3 Florida 196.875-196.575 in the Gators’ first dual meet against a ranked opponent.

Meets between the Top-10 Southeastern Conference teams are traditionally close.

Since 1995, less than half a point has decided 21 of the 36 UF-LSU meetings.

Friday night’s meet was no different.

Heading into the balance beam exercise, Florida held a .25 advantage over its SEC rival. 

However, uncharacteristic missteps by Olympian Bridget Sloan and All-American Marissa King resulted in Florida using a fall score for its final beam total of 48.775. 

LSU’s 49.325 floor exercise sealed a win by a margin of 0.3 points.  

“Tonight will be a very positive learning experience,” coach Rhonda Faehn said. 

“Coming here, we knew that LSU is a talented team and against any team in the SEC, especially on the road, you really have to hit if you expect to walk away with a win. For us to finish up with two falls on beam — that isn’t going to get it done. Some things were absolutely amazing and some things were a little bit rough.”

Faehn is certain the loss will only strengthen an already deep and experienced team. 

“[The loss is] something that is going to be a positive where everyone on the team can look individually where they have to work harder and where they have to improve,” Faehn said. 

But on an evening full of blemishes, Kytra Hunter was locked in. 

The sophomore standout pieced together an impressive early-season debut performance, recording scores of 9.9-plus in each of the four all-around events. 

Hunter, who finished ahead of the field in vault and bars with scores of 9.950 and 9.900, respectively, earned the evening’s all-around event title with a score of 39.675.

 She matched her college best on uneven bars to share the crown with LSU’s Sarie Morrison. 

Hunter just missed out on the floor title with a score of 9.925. LSU’s Lloiminica Hall  won with a 9.95 score.

Gators gymnast Mackenzie Caquatto won the beam title with a score of 9.95. Hunter was second with 9.9.

Hunter’s sturdiness was on display from the get-go.

“She was competing with tremendous discipline and focus. Her vault, I could’ve given it a 10 — it was beautiful,” Faehn said. 

Aside from the individual accolades, Hunter stressed the importance of refocusing. 

“This has put a bad taste in our mouths and this is not the way we wanted to start our (SEC) season,” Hunter said.

“But it is a stepping stone and it needs to be a step that we learn from as we look toward the end of the season.

“We’d rather it happen now than later.”

Florida’s SEC schedule continues next Friday at 7, when the Gators host No. 21 Missouri in the O’Connell Center.

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