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Thursday, April 25, 2024

The UF gymnastics team demonstrated this weekend it's almost ready to compete for a national championship.

With meets on Friday and Sunday at Kentucky and Pittsburgh, respectively, the No. 3 Gators were trying to simulate the difficulty of competing in two meets in the same weekend - the format of the NCAA Championships.

UF started the weekend with a 196.35-193.15 victory against the Wildcats, and then increased its margin versus Pittsburgh to 196.85-190.825.

The team total against the Panthers was the Gators' second highest of the season.

"What was nice to see this competition is they actually performed better than at Kentucky and had the enthusiasm for this competition," UF coach Rhonda Faehn said. "This was great to see, because that will be instrumental in the success of the postseason, having that type of energy and still feeling strong on the second day."

UF's new lineup on the uneven parallel bars worked out, as the Gators didn't have a fall in Friday's competition. It was the first time without a slip since the opening meet against Illinois-Chicago.

UF followed it up with another six-for-six performance on the bars on Sunday.

"Maranda (Smith) had a great leadoff for us there, and it helped build the confidence of the team," Faehn said. "It's nice to see, because the more they perform this way, they can become more aggressive, so we can focus on the little things, the finer points of execution."

Going into the weekend, senior Ashley Reed and junior Corey Hartung were tied at nine all-around victories in their college careers.

On Friday, Reed captured her 10th win with her best total of the season, 39.325, and Hartung picked up hers with a 38.675 on Sunday in front of many of her family and friends - Hartung is from Irwin, Pa., 20 miles outside of Pittsburgh.

Reed placed in the top three in all seven of the events she competed in this weekend, including first-place finishes in vault on Friday and bars on Sunday.

The senior didn't seem phased by the double weekend.

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"I think knowing what to expect on a double weekend might have helped some, and just going out there feeling good and being confident really helped me out a lot," Reed said.

Hartung's performance wasn't as dominant, as she only placed in three of the eight events, but she did get her first win in the floor exercise event on Friday and then tied for first on floor on Sunday.

Until this weekend, she looked nearly unbeatable on the vault, but in both meets, Hartung had the lowest score for the Gators, including an event-low score on Sunday.

UF also got strong performances out of proven gymnasts Melanie Sinclair and Amanda Castillo, who combined to win or tie for all four events on Sunday, but it was the more inexperienced competitors that Faehn was pleased to see perform well in the meets.

"It was nice to see other individuals step in, and I thought we didn't have a problem this time around with mistakes or athletes feeling uncomfortable or confident, because there was a great opportunity for them to gain more experience," Faehn said.

UF will look to continue to improve as it returns home to take on No. 7 LSU Friday.

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