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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

UF's gymnastics meet came down to the final routine of the competition, but the Gators fell just short of pulling out a victory.

No. 2 Georgia defeated No. 1 UF 196.850-196.825 on Friday night in the O'Connell Center.

The .025 difference is the smallest possible margin of victory.

After starting the meet with the second-highest vault score in school history, the Gators struggled with two falls on the uneven bars by seniors Nicola Willis and Ashley Reed.

The two falls resulted in UF's first counted fall since Jan. 20, 2006.

After the Gators poor showing in the uneven bars, the team tried to regroup and finish out the meet with a strong performance.

"We had some huge mistakes on the bars, so we new we really couldn't afford to [slip up]," sophomore Amanda Castillo said. "We had to get back on our game and hold our chins up high and do the best we could."

Going into the final portion of the meet, the Gators were down by .650 and would need some help from the Bulldogs.

Two Bulldog gymnasts, Grace Taylor and Courtney McCool, fell on the beam to give the Gators a chance.

Castillo was the last gymnast to compete and needed at least a 9.9 on her floor routine to tie, but she only got a 9.875.

UF got the fifth-best all-around performance in school history from junior co-captain Corey Hartung, who recorded her career-best all-around score with a 39.700.

Hartung excelled on the vault with a score of 9.975, which was her personal best and second best on UF history.

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Coach Rhonda Faehn said Hartung's performance was a long time coming and well-deserved.

The Gators' loss came in front of 10,855 people - the largest crowd ever for a gymnastics meet in the O'Connell Center.

Castillo enjoyed having that big of a crowd, but she said the crowd might have been a little hard on the team, and the Gators need to adjust to that type of environment.

This was UF's first regular-season loss since Georgia came to town on Jan. 27, 2006.

The Bulldogs improved their all-time record against UF to 85-31-1, and they remain undefeated when competing against No. 1 teams.

Losing to its rival was disappointing, but UF knows it is still early in the season. The Gators will likely see the Bulldogs again when more is on the line.

"Last year it was nice to keep saying we were undefeated, but NCAAs is what really matter and really counts in the end," Hartung said. "It is a good learning situation tonight. We will pick up our confidence and know what we did wrong, so we can beat them later."

UF could keep the No.1 ranking if their average total score is still the highest in the nation - the GymInfo ranking system bases its first five polls on the total season average.

No matter what ranking the Gators receive, Faehn wants the team to learn from its mistakes and continue to build for the NCAA Championship.

"I think it will be really good for our athletes, because it's going to continue to fuel them and make them hungry."

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