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Friday, September 29, 2023

It won’t exactly be a home meet for No. 4 Florida, but it will be a homecoming for freshman Ashanée Dickerson when the Gators travel to Jacksonville for the 2010 Southeastern Conference Championships.

Dickerson, a Jacksonville native, leads the team with 18 individual event titles this season and will try to help UF (9-2, 5-1 SEC) win its first conference title since 2007.

Dickerson said her family and friends have been ordering tickets for the SEC Championships since August. She said her mom, Pattie Daise Dickerson, even made fliers to hand out to support the team, and she expects a personal cheering section of more than 200 people to support her and the rest of the Gators.

“It’s going to be exciting, not only for Ashanée to be back home, but for the whole team because it’s in Florida and very close,” UF coach Rhonda Faehn said.

The event will be in Jacksonville for the first time in the 30-year history of the SEC Championships.

With the meet being so close to Gainesville, Faehn and the Gators expect a friendly atmosphere Saturday when they arrive at Veterans Memorial Arena.

A pro-UF crowd could help the Gators’ chances at taking home their seventh SEC title, especially with the meet’s format of having a gymnast on each apparatus at any given time.

But if the team hopes to come away with the title, it will need more than just a friendly crowd.

The SEC Championships will showcase five of the nation’s top-10 teams, including defending SEC champion and No. 1 Alabama — which dealt Florida its only loss in conference play — as well as five-time defending national champion Georgia.

All seven SEC schools are ranked in the top 25 nationally, so the pressure will be on in Jacksonville.

While Florida’s freshman class has shined throughout the season, Faehn hopes to be able to turn to her experienced upperclassmen who have been there before to set the example for the rest of the team and give them advice on the championship stage.

“I feel comfortable and I feel confident with our freshman, because they’ve had the experience so far this year in difficult situations,” Faehn said. “That being said, it still takes the whole group, and they will look to our upperclassmen to see how they respond.”

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