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Saturday, June 03, 2023

Gymnasts combine for nation's highest score this season

The No. 3 UF gymnastics team was in championship form once again Friday night.

With a 197.925-196.325 win against No. 6 LSU (8-2, 3-2 Southeastern Conference), the Gators (6-1, 4-1 SEC) recorded the highest score in the nation this season and the third-highest in school history.

UF's total was higher than Georgia's 197.85 that won the 2007 NCAA Championships.

The Gators improved in many areas against the Tigers, setting or tying 10 collegiate-best scores in front of 6,705 fans, the 10th-largest crowd in team history.

All-American Amanda Castillo set three of those career bests - uneven parallel bars (9.95), floor exercise (9.95) and all-around competition (39.575) - on her way to winning her first all-around title of the season.

"I just feel like I have been second-guessing myself all season, and I wasn't going to have any more of that," Castillo said. "So I cleared my head, came in here and did what I do in the gym."

Although Castillo has performed well in previous meets, she had yet to put together a complete performance and regain the form that earned a third-place finish in the all-around at the 2007 NCAA Championships. She tied for first on the bars, won the floor and tied for second on the balance beam with a 9.875.

After Castillo's routine on the floor, UF coach Rhonda Faehn had some words of confidence for the sophomore.

"I whispered in her ear after floor was over, 'Amanda's back,'" Faehn said.

Castillo narrowly beat All-American teammates Corey Hartung and Melanie Sinclair for the all-around crown, as those two tied for second with a total of 39.55. Sinclair set a career high with the total.

Sinclair also put up a collegiate-best vault score of 9.95, which was only good enough to give her a tie for second with teammate Tiffany Murry, who tied her collegiate best.

LSU's Susan Jackson claimed the title with a 9.975.

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Besides the top performances from the three All-Americans, the Gators got strong showings from the rest of the team, which didn't have a fall in any routine, going 24 for 24.

"I felt like the whole team was together, and all the training we have done showed tonight," Sinclair said. "Overall, we didn't feel like we went out every meet and felt 100 percent, so it was good to go out there and feel like that tonight."

The team effort resulted in UF setting season highs in three events - bars (49.625), beam (49.4) and floor (49.55).

The bars score was the third-highest in UF history.

Castillo, Sinclair and Nicola Willis tied for first place in the event with a score of 9.95. The mark is a collegiate best for Willis, who also set a new best on the beam.

Once again, Faehn made changes to the team's lineup on the bars, with freshman Alicia Goodwin joining the rotation to start the Gators off.

"We were excited about being able to put her out there, because her body lines are nice and her form and execution is wonderful," Faehn said. "We were excited about using that lineup."

With Castillo's all-around win on Friday, a Gator has claimed the title in all seven meets this season.

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