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Friday, March 31, 2023

At the midway point of the season, No. 6 Florida ranks in the top 10 nationally in every event, but the area the team has improved most since last season has been the balance beam.

The Gators have averaged 48.875, a .485-point improvement over the team’s average at the same time last season.

Last year, the team was ravaged by injuries on the beam, including Rebekah Zaiser’s broken foot, forcing UF coach Rhonda Faehn to piece together lineups at times during the season.

Lack of depth, however, has not been an issue for Florida this year, as it has 10 gymnasts competing for beam lineup spots almost every week.

“Whenever you have competition within the team, it makes you stronger,” Faehn said.

Zaiser, a senior, has returned from two major surgeries to lead off the event for UF, and Faehn said Zaiser’s discipline and work ethic have meant a lot to the team.

Part of that competitiveness Faehn sees during practice comes from the push that Zaiser brings to the team.

Possibly the biggest impact on the team’s beam performance has been the emergence of freshman Liz Green, who has taken home the event title for three-consecutive meets.

“She’s a natural beamer,” Faehn said. “She’s aggressive, she doesn’t hold back and she combines the difficulty, the flexibility, the grace and the artistry. She’s the total package up there.”

Green just enrolled in classes this semester but said the coaches told her to be prepared to compete right off the bat once she got to Gainesville. In just her second week on campus, she competed in the team’s season-opener against Oklahoma.

Although she didn’t participate on beam against the Sooners, Green’s recent performances has her ranked 13th nationally, averaging 9.831, and her three beam titles are tops among the Gators.

“I really wasn’t expecting to come in right away and have this much success,” Green said. “I just expected to do my best and hit my routines, and that’s just what I’ve done.”

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