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Saturday, January 28, 2023

The UF gymnastics team kicked off its year with the best season-opening performance in school history.

The No. 2 Gators took down Illinois-Chicago 197.125-187.825.

Coach Rhonda Faehn did not attend Friday's meet because she was still recovering from having her first baby on Tuesday.

Assistant coach Adrian Burde filled in for Faehn.

Throughout the meet Faehn text messaged Burde's wife for updates on the team's performance.

"My wife got over 30 text messages from Rhonda," Burde said.

Overall, Burde was very pleased with how the team performed.

The Gators got strong performances from All-Americans Melanie Sinclair and Amanda Castillo, who both placed in the top three in all four events.

Sinclair took first place in the all-around competition, tying her best score of 39.525, just beating out Castillo's 39.500.

The two gymnasts tied for first place in the uneven bars with a score of 9.925, tying a personal best for Castillo.

Castillo believes the team's strong performance was due to the hard work it has been putting into practice.

"We've been working out really hard, training really hard in the gym and just working out the little mistakes that we had last year," Castillo said.

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Besides the top two, UF got solid results from Nicola Willis and Corey Hartung in the all-around and Tiffany Murry in the floor exercise.

For the first time in five years, as well as the first time in college, Courtney Gladys officially competed in a meet, participating in the vault Friday night.

Gladys quit gymnastics in 2003 but returned to the sport after three years away from it.

It has taken some time for her to be ready for college-level gymnastics, but Burde thinks she is finally ready to compete.

"Courtney has been working so hard. She has been working the last year or two," Burde said. "She has been around for about two years and I think she finally got it, she finally understood what it takes to be successful in college."

The Gators will need another good outing next week when they face SEC rival and preseason No.1 Georgia.

The three-time defending champion Bulldogs lost their season opener Friday to No. 3 Utah 196.300-196.200.

The Gators will try and improve on their season-opening performance and plan on treating the meet against Georgia just like any other meet.

"It's just like any other competition this year," Castillo said. "We are just taking it one meet at a time, we're not going to look out into the future."

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