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Friday, May 24, 2024

It began as a routine recruiting trip to a Jacksonville gymnastics studio.

The Florida gymnastics coaching staff arrived at Gymnastics Unlimited to check out another recruit, but it was a young Ashanée Dickerson, donned in orange and blue, practicing her vault, who would morph into the Gators’ future star.

“We were actually there to see another gymnast that was about two or three years older than Ashanée ,” coach Rhonda Faehn said. “Ashanée  was vaulting, and she stood out, obviously. Her coaches pointed to her and said, ‘She’s going to be your next Gator.’ From that point on, we’ve always had our eyes on Ashanée .”

Flash forward to Dickerson’s sophomore year at UF, and she’s done more than just become another Gator. With her performance in Friday’s meet against LSU, Dickerson reeled in her 10th all-around title. She won all four of the meet’s events, the first UF gymnast to do so since 2000.

“It was great,” Dickerson said. “I don’t pay attention to my scores so I didn’t know what my all-around score would be. I just went out there and had fun with my teammates because we knew the crowd was against us.”

Due to her stellar performance against the Tigers, Dickerson was named Southeastern Conference Gymnast of the Week for the second time in her collegiate career. 

“She’ll come back in immediately after winning every event and the all-around and get right back to work,” Faehn said. “She doesn’t expect to get a little bit of a break or say, ‘Hey I’ve won so many meets, I don’t have to work as hard, I’m good.’ She works even harder to fix the smallest little mistakes. She’s awesome.”

Dickerson’s drive to compete for Florida wasn’t something that spontaneously came about. She said it’s been a dream she’s had since she was a mere 8 years old.

“I’ve wanted to be a Gator ever since I was a little girl,” she said. “Now, it’s comfortable. It’s my home now.”

In the summer of 2009, now-senior Maranda Smith was training in the practice facilities at Florida when Dickerson first stepped in the studio as the Gators’ newest gymnast.

“From the first day, she was all ready to do full routines, and she was sticking landings,” Smith said. “I always knew she was going to be a rock star out on the floor.”

Despite Dickerson’s spunky attitude on the mats and powerful performances that earned her SEC Freshman of the Year last season, she became known as the shy one. Now, midway through her sophomore year, her shell has finally started to break.

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“She’s definitely provided more of her personality,” Smith said. “She cheers. She leads. She’s still the great, same gymnast she was last year but just a little more spice behind her.”

On top of Dickerson’s more outgoing personality being unleashed this season, Faehn said, another noticeable difference from last season is seen in her efforts to improve her gymnastics on a more specific scale.

“She’s really working hard on her polish since last year,” Faehn said. “She has the power, she has the tricks, but she’s worked really hard on her form, her flexibility, her overall presentation, and that’s making a big difference. She’s really maturing as a gymnast.”

Currently, Dickerson is ranked No. 3 nationally for all-around gymnasts, proving that she’s the farthest thing away from a sophomore slump.

In the corner of the gymnastics studio Dickerson’s always dreamed to be in, there is a marker-stained whiteboard scribbled with the words “Ask yourself, what am I doing to bring this team to victory?”

The Gators have already proved themselves victorious this season, sitting pretty at a No. 1 national ranking, a spot that Dickerson has no doubt contributed to immensely.

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