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Monday, June 17, 2024

JACKSONVILLE — The Southeastern Conference Championships didn’t start out exactly how the Gators had hoped, but the meet certainly ended the way they wanted it to.

No. 4 Florida took home its seventh SEC title in school history with a team total of 197.05, edging out defending conference champion No. 1 Alabama (196.875) in Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville.

After receiving a bye in the first rotation, Florida got off to a rough start on the vault, registering a 49.125, the team’s second-lowest score of the season on the event.

But coach Rhonda Faehn said the Gators didn’t let the vault performance affect them.

After another bye and performing on the uneven bars, the Gators put together their second-best beam total of the year to rally in the second half of Saturday’s meet.

But it wasn’t without drama.

On beam, senior Courtney Gladys led off for UF with a 9.9 to set the tone.

After solid routines by Amy Ferguson, Randy Stageberg and Rebekah Zaiser, freshman Liz Green, who won four beam titles this season, fell twice during her routine.

Florida needed SEC Freshman of the Year Ashanée Dickerson to come through big like she has all season. And that’s just what she did.

“I looked into her eyes, and I could see she was going to hit. She knew what she had to do,”  Faehn said.

Performing in her hometown, Dickerson scored a 9.925 on the beam to propel the Gators into first place with one event remaining.

Following the beam, Florida went into its third bye of the day while Alabama closed out its meet on the floor.

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The Crimson Tide finished their routines and headed into the final rotation as the leader on the scoreboard.

But Alabama had to play the waiting game while Florida finished on the floor.

Green led off for UF on floor exercise and rebounded after her falls on the beam with a 9.875.

The Gators carried that momentum to their first SEC title since 2007, as the team counted four 9.875s on floor and a 9.9 from senior Maranda Smith.

Faehn called the team’s floor performance one of its best all season.

“It’s going to give our athletes even more confidence heading into regionals and nationals,” Faehn said of the team’s rally. “Under the heavy-pressure situation, up on a podium, our team dug in, and that’s where we won a championship.”

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