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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

On a night Corey Hartung envisioned waving to the crowd after her floor exercise, she instead will face the harsh reality of not competing, waving to the crowd from the floor with her family, dressed up to cheer and coach while wearing a protective boot.

Hartung, the lone senior on the team, will be honored tonight in the O'Connell Center as No. 4 UF (5-3, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) hosts its last home meet of the season against No. 14 Michigan (13-3), but she won't be competing because of a tear in her left calf muscle.

UF coach Rhonda Faehn wants to rest her until the start of the SEC Championships.

Not only will the night, one focused on Hartung, be emotionally tough for the team, it will also impact the team's lineup.

Hartung, an all-around competitor, performed against Georgia last week on uneven bars and balance beam, but has even been scratched from those two events tonight in hopes to get her healthy for the postseason.

While looking back on Hartung's career, Faehn said she didn't remember dual meets. Instead, she remembered the big meets, such as the national championship and regional meets.

It's a point she has been trying to stress to Hartung, as hard as it's been for Hartung to accept in the heat of the moment.

"Really what I was trying to do was just trying to give her some perspective," Faehn said.

"I really just wanted her to try and focus on all the unbelievable things she did so far and still all the great things that lie ahead."

Hartung realizes she is being honored for her four years at UF and that, as hard as it will be not to compete, it doesn't outweigh the four years of competitions she has been a part of.

"It's not about one night being able to perform, it's about your experiences you had," Hartung said. "I'm not being honored for competing against Michigan (tonight), it's just a meet. It happens to be Senior Night."

If the Gators want to push their home record to a perfect 5-0, other gymnasts will need to fill the void left by Hartung, something the team has had to do all year while battling injuries.

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Juniors Ashley Kerr and Courtney Gladys will see more duty, with Kerr filling the sixth spot on the vault lineup and Gladys performing in every event.

The team is also welcoming back junior Amanda Castillo, who competed on floor for the first time this season in Athens, Ga., after recovering from bursitis.

"You don't want to be pulled out of the lineup. You don't want to be hurt," Castillo said.

"You know the team is struggling and you know you can help. And then when you can't, it's one of the worst feelings in the world."

Castillo, who is familiar with the feeling of being hampered by an injury, said she's dedicating her performance tonight to Hartung.

"I'm going to compete from my heart, for Corey," Castillo said. "We need to make it fun. We need to go out there and get the crowd rowdy and do it for our lone senior."

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