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Saturday, June 03, 2023

Through the first three events, the Gators appeared to be on their way to another stellar performance.

At the start of the fourth event, No. 3 UF (7-1, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) already had the meet locked up and was ready to head back to Gainesville.

The Gators, who are the No. 1 team in the nation on the balance beam, had two uncharacteristic falls in the final event on Friday in their 196.65-194.125 victory against North Carolina.

After sophomore Rebekah Zaiser started UF on the beam with a fall, it looked like the Gators would escape the rotation without a counted fall until anchor Amanda Castillo slipped during her routine.

Before Friday's competition, the Gators had only one other fall all season on the beam - Ashley Reed fell in the first meet of the season against Illinois-Chicago.

Coach Rhonda Faehn reminded her team after the meet of its past success in the event and warned them about upcoming meets against powerhouses No. 2 Utah and Alabama. The Crimson Tide will be ranked in the top five after competing in their sixth meet Friday - after the sixth week of the season, a team must have six scores in order to be ranked.

"They are a very solid beam team, and I spoke to them about that afterwards, that they are the No.1-ranked beam team in the country and are going to have to focus a little bit harder so this doesn't happen when we go up against Alabama and Utah in more pressure situations," Faehn said.

Even with the two falls, the Gators managed to put up a higher team score than UNC in the event.

Melanie Sinclair, Ashley Reed and Corey Hartung scored a 9.875 on the beam to tie for first in the event, along with one UNC gymnast, Christine Nguyen.

For Hartung, it was her fifth time finishing with a win or share in the event this season.

To go with her first-place tie on the beam, Hartung claimed a share of the vault title and had the top floor exercise score.

The three top finishes helped Hartung win her fourth all-around title of the season and the 11th of her collegiate career.

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"I went out there, like I always do, one event at a time, and it's important for me to perform my best on every event and have the mindset to be the best," Hartung said.

Right behind Hartung in the all-around competition were senior teammates Reed and Nicola Willis, who placed second and third, respectively.

In the Gators' four away meets this season, Reed and Hartung have split the all-around victories, winning two each.

Faehn credits the two gymnasts' experience for their success on the road and will look to them for leadership in the team's closing meets.

"They have been in pressure situations last year and the year before, and I think that will play a role rest of the year, because the rest of our schedule is challenging," Faehn said.

Once again, Faehn gave some of her top athletes a rest during a road meet, but she will be putting in UF's best lineup the rest of the season.

"From this point out, we will have our lineup set, barring any injury, so that will help with consistency and the overall mindset of the competition."

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