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Friday, September 29, 2023

All week, the coaches at the NCAA Gymnastics Championships spoke about parity in the sport.

So much for that notion.

The UCLA Bruins walked away with their sixth national title since 1997, and the team’s first since winning back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2004.

It was evident early on that Florida was going to have to come through with its best performances if it wanted to contend for its first NCAA title, as UCLA put up a 49.475 on vault in the night’s first rotation.

But the Gators just didn’t have it in the Super Six and finished fifth with a 197, behind UCLA (197.725), Oklahoma (197.25), Alabama (197.225) and Stanford (197.1).

“People putting too much pressure on themselves, wanting it too much,” said senior Amanda Castillo of her team’s performance. “There’s a thing called trying too hard and sometimes you just gotta let it happen naturally.”

Florida, which had trouble on the bars Thursday, again got off to a rough start as four-time All-American freshman Marissa King overextended on a handstand, hit her foot on the bar and fell on her landing.

The team again had to be wary of further mistakes and it finished the rotation with a 49.125.

“I think the team still had a little bit of nerves from what happened last night on bars and starting on that event again tonight and having the No. 2, Marissa made the mistake, everybody just got tight again,” UF coach Rhonda Faehn said.

Little mistakes here and there cost the Gators throughout the meet and even on vault, their strongest event all season, they put together the lowest score (49.25) of any of the Super Six teams.

For UCLA, it was a night to remember, winning a national title in the team’s first trip back to the Super Six since 2007, but for King, it was a night to forget.

After the errors on bars – where she scored an 8.55 – she also fell on her beam routine, stepped out of bounds during her floor exercise and had a big step on her vault landing.

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“Just sheer disappointment, because it’s not usual for me to make such big mistakes like that, especially on a major championship for the team,” King said, trying to fight back tears.

It was uncharacteristic for a gymnast who came through in a big way for the Gators all season, but Faehn said it “snowballed” for King and she just wasn’t able to rebound from the gaffes on bars.

 “I do feel it’s partly my fault, but then we’re a team, so we win together, we lose together,” King said.

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