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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

It's a minute and a half of pure euphoria and a demonstration of personality unlike any other gymnastics event.

It's the floor exercise.

The last event at home meets for the Gators, floor is a chance for UF gymnasts to dance and perform a choreographed routine to the music of their liking in an unparalleled experience.

"The feeling I get when I'm out on the floor is like a natural high," said two-time defending Southeastern Conference floor champ Amanda Castillo.

Castillo, who performed floor for the first time this season against Alabama as an exhibition, said she was thrilled to finally be able to get back on the floor just because she was able to finish her routine.

The process behind floor exercise is arduous: Sometimes it isn't easy picking a song to go with the dance in mind.

Freshman Amy Ferguson, who performs to the beat of a song called "Drumline," said it took her a while to pick out the right song.

"I was really looking for that one song that I knew I could just go out there and have fun," Ferguson said. "And then one of my friends brought ("Drumline") in and the second I heard it, I was like 'That's it. That's what I'm going to do.'"

Ferguson, who's had her routine for two years now, said it's important to pick a song that relates to your personality, and whether or not the routine is going to be fun or more serious.

"I think mine is more on the fun side, definitely," she said.

Junior Maranda Smith loves floor to see how much air she can get while tumbling. She likes getting involved in the music as well, but said it can be difficult picking out the right music.

"Usually there's tons of different types of music you like," Smith said. "You're like, 'Oh my gosh, I like this, but I like that, and I like all these pieces.' So it's kind of difficult to find the exact pieces that you want to put together. But once you hear the one that you want, you're like 'Oh that is it. That is what I want. I could see myself doing this to it.'"

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Once the song is picked, it's a process of trial and error, seeing if the music fits with the routine and playing around with the music and routine until the perfect exercise is cooked up.

Team choreographer Jeremy Miranda said it's a process that starts in summer when he has gymnasts bring him a CD of songs they like, and from there it's a narrowing-down process. He said he encourages the gymnasts to pick songs they naturally like and songs that they feel comfortable moving to - nothing forced.

"Something that's just really organic to them and makes them want to move," Miranda said.

And while it's important that the gymnast be comfortable with the music, it's also just as important that the music contribute to a routine with the potential for high scores.

"What's going to set us apart, what's going to set other teams apart, is the quality of work in between the skills," Miranda said.

For Miranda, though, it all reverts back to the tunes.

"Music for me is the most important part of putting together a floor routine," he said.

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