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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

When Amanda Castillo stung her ankle against Utah on Friday, UF (6-4, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) could only hope it was a minor injury.

Turns out it was a knockout.

Castillo partially tore her left Achilles tendon and will miss the rest of the season.

"She has chosen wisely, and I agree with her that she's going to go ahead and get surgery and get a jumpstart on next season, saving herself about three months' recovery time," UF coach Rhonda Faehn said.

Castillo, a two-time defending SEC champ on floor exercise, will be out for the SEC Championships on Saturday and any other postseason meet in which UF competes.

The latest injury marks the fourth gymnast - one-third of the team - to have her season cut short by injuries.

"We're extremely limited," Faehn said. "We just don't have the bodies to put out there."

Even the lone senior on the team hasn't been spared. Corey Hartung has not performed all-around since Feb. 20 against Alabama. Hampered by a third-degree strain of the soleus muscle in her left calf, Hartung was limited to uneven bars and balance beam against Georgia on Feb. 28 and didn't compete at all against Michigan and Utah.

She has been resting up in an effort to be healthy enough to do at least bars and beam in the SEC Championships and compete in the NCAA Regional.

"We have to be very smart and careful with her," Faehn said. "As much as she is insistent and really wants to be out there. She says she's fine. I don't doubt that, but we have to be careful."

The team is so battered and beaten that Faehn has a different outlook heading into the postseason.

"Our goals have changed, and we're not looking at anything other than what we can control," Faehn said. "We're really not focusing on the final results. We're focusing on taking one day at a time and doing what we have to do to make sure these athletes feel consistent and hit their routines."

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Faehn said the injuries this year have shed light on how fortunate - and healthy - her past teams have been.

"Injuries happen to everybody, in any sport, at any time," Faehn said. "We look at the last four or five seasons here, and we've been extremely lucky, very fortunate, that we haven't sustained even a major injury. Unfortunately it's kind of all happening this season."

One glimmer of light that could be perceived as a positive amid injuries is the opportunities other gymnasts are getting.

Junior Courtney Gladys is competing in the all-around category and brought in the highest score for the Gators against Utah with her 9.925 on vault.

Sophomore Alicia Goodwin returned to the beam lineup because of the Gators' thin roster and recorded a 9.875 in two consecutive meets to finish as the best beam performer for UF. Goodwin was pulled from the lineup earlier this season because of falls in three straight meets.

The door also opened for Ashley Kerr, who filled in for Castillo on beam against Utah. It was Kerr's college competitive debut on beam.

"It was wonderful to see the athletes really stepping up that were helping out fill in the spots and the voids," Faehn said.

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