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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Hartung, Zaiser head home to Pennsylvania for meet against Pittsburgh

For two UF gymnasts, this Sunday's meet at Pittsburgh won't feel like an away meet.

Corey Hartung and Rebekah Zaiser each grew up within 25 miles of Pittsburgh and will have friends and family on hand to see them perform.

Hartung is from Irwin, Pa. and Zaiser hails from Mars, Pa.

"I'm very really excited for this weekend because my parents make it to one or two meets during the year," said Zaiser. "So this means a lot to them to see me home."

Zaiser is coming off a win in the balance beam last week against Arkansas with her best collegiate score.

But this week, she will have to overcome anxiety from performing in front of her hometown fans.

"I was talking to my coach from club last week, and he was like, 'I don't want you to be nervous in front of everybody," Zaiser said. "I'm going to treat it like any other meet when I'm out there performing. Just team goal first, but I still be able to enjoy being in front of a home crowd so there shouldn't be any extra pressure."

For Hartung, it will be the first time competing in her home state, and she expects nearly 100 friends and family members to attend the meet.

"My family from Ohio is driving over to watch me, my brother, my sister and my best friend who is probably one important person coming because she doesn't really get to see me often," Hartung said.

Between Hartung and Zaiser's fans, about 200 supporters are expected to come out and make the Gators feel at home.

But before the two get to compete in front of familiar faces, they will have to go up against Southeastern Conference opponent Kentucky on Friday.

Coach Rhonda Faehn has scheduled a double weekend of road meets every year since she arrived in 2003.

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"It gives them a little bit of a heads up," Faehn said. "Nationals has two in a row, but they are back to back, so this will push our athletes mentally and physically to see what it's like ahead of time, so they can go best prepare for NCAAs."

While the No. 3 Gators don't often compete in two meets in the same weekend, Faehn does not expect her athletes to suffer from fatigue in the second meet against the Panthers.

Faehn will use the same lineup in two competitions - the uneven parallel bars and the balance beam - but will make changes on the floor and vault in the second meet.

"We don't want to take the risk of potential injuries if there is fatigue, so for the leg events, which are little bit harder on the body, we will switch that up," Faehn said.

There will be a change this weekend to the top of uneven bars rotation. After struggling the last few weeks, Nicola Willis will switch to the second spot in the rotation and Maranda Smith will lead off for the Gators.

Even with the change and new challenge, the Gators should be able to hold off the two unranked opponents, especially with UF's history against the two teams. The Gators are 68-1 against the two teams all-time, with 61 of the wins coming against the Wildcats.

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