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Thursday, March 30, 2023

When the Gators take the floor Friday in the O’Connell Center for the fourth annual Gators Link to Pink meet, it will have a more significant meaning for junior Alicia Goodwin that the first two times she competing in it.

Teams put their school colors aside and sport pink leotards for the meet as part of a Southeastern Conference initiative intended to help raise awareness for breast cancer, a cause that hits close to home for Goodwin.

In August, before the fall semester began, Goodwin found out her aunt Carolyn Goodwin back home in Dallas was diagnosed with the disease.

“It was a big deal,” Goodwin said. “She was pretty upset and our family was, too. But everyone just tried to stay positive about it and keep her in our prayers.”

She learned about her aunt’s diagnosis through a call from her father. When she found out, she called her aunt to talk and tell her that she was thinking about her.

Goodwin said this meet has always meant a lot because it’s a great cause, but this year the competition takes on a new importance to her.

When her aunt was first diagnosed, she asked Goodwin if she would wear pink for her, and Goodwin gladly told her she would, making her chance to wear the color in this meet special.

“That moment was kind of ‘Wow, I’m actually wearing pink, and I’m doing it for someone related to me who’s affected by it,’” she said.

Her aunt’s illness has been tough on her and is something Goodwin said she tries not to think about all the time.

When she’s in the gym, she tries to keep her mind off of her aunt’s situation because she said it’s important to stay focused.

But that was difficult for Goodwin in the fall when she had to deal with her family issues as well fighting through a string of nagging injuries, spraining her both ankles and elbow.

“It was a lot to go through at once,” Goodwin said. “But I tried to always keep in mind that everything happens for a reason.”

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Coach Rhonda Faehn said everything Goodwin experienced has made her a tougher person, and she has rebounded nicely to start the season.

Because she’s so far from home, Goodwin calls everyone in her family — some of whom will be in attendance Friday — to keep in touch and said it’s always great to talk to her aunt when she can.

“She’s doing better,” Goodwin said. “Every day is a blessing.”

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