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Friday, April 19, 2024

You may have heard, but in case you haven't: The UF gymnastics team is hurting. Bad.

More than a third of the team is injured, with Alicia Goodwin and Amanda Castillo the latest to fall. Goodwin sprained her left knee during practice Wednesday and is out for the Southeastern Conference Championships while Castillo partially tore her left Achilles tendon and is out for the season.

Already on the physically-unable-to-perform list: Nicole Ellis, Kailey Tissue and Rebekah Zaiser.

UF (6-4, 3-3 SEC) is fully aware and has no choice but to take the injuries in stride as it preps for the SEC Championships starting Saturday.

"We could sit here and say, 'Oh my goodness, woe is me, this just awful. I can't believe we've sustained injuries to half our team.' It's not going to get you anywhere," UF coach Rhonda Faehn said.

In light of the team's injuries, UF has retooled its lineup for the league championships while trying to keep the other two-thirds of the team as healthy as possible.

Faehn said she was looking for the team to perform similar to the beginning of the season.

"We're trying to look at it positively in the sense that absolutely we still have potential," Faehn said. "We have Melanie (Sinclair) 100 percent and Maranda (Smith) 100 percent, and we're striving toward having Corey (Hartung) 100 percent for regionals. That's three heavy hitters."

She also mentioned big contributions from all-arounder Elizabeth Mahlich and new all-arounder Courtney Gladys.

The Gators welcome back Hartung, who has been sidelined the last two meets with a third-degree strain of the soleus muscle in her left calf, to the competitive lineup. She will be performing on uneven bars and balance beam, and Faehn said Hartung would probably be in the vault lineup as well.

She still won't compete on floor exercise in an effort to get her fully healthy for the NCAA Regional competition on April 4.

Courtney Gladys, who has been competing all-around the last two meets, will make it three straight all-around meets in the SEC Championships.

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"I enjoy doing all-around, to be able to step in for a teammate. I was more than happy to do it," Gladys said.

Given the injuries, Faehn said the team is re-evaluating how it heads into the meet. The main focus is to have every gymnast hit every routine possible. Winning isn't out of the question, but the Gators will need some help from other SEC foes, including Georgia, which beat UF 198.2 to 196.65 earlier this season. The No. 1 Bulldogs' score is the nation's highest this season.

For a team running on fumes, UF is also running on team unity - something not to be overrated on the competition floor.

"Almost every other week there was another person going down," Gladys said. "I think our team has come together closer this year because of it. Staying strong and staying as one unit is going to help us get through the year."

With such a close-knit group, it hasn't been easy for the healthy ones to see their teammates' seasons cut short.

"It's definitely taking a toll on us," said Ashley Kerr, who unexpectedly filled in for Amanda Castillo on beam during the Utah meet on March 13. "It's really cool that I can be out there, but I hate the reasoning. I love that I'm able to step up, but at what cost?"

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