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Friday, May 24, 2024

Florida has dominated on its home turf. Now, it’s time to see what the Gators can accomplish on another team’s mats.

No. 1 UF will face No. 24 LSU in the team’s first away meet of the season tonight at 8 in Baton Rouge, La.

The Gators have already proven themselves successful in front of their home crowd, posting the nation’s top two final score totals in the first two competitions of the season.

But tonight’s meet will be the first time the freshman gymnasts will experience an away meet with the Gators. Freshman Mackenzie Caquatto said the older gymnasts have told her to expect something different.

Senior Maranda Smith said her main advice for Caquatto and the other freshmen will be to aviod getting distracted by the hostile crowd.

“Focus on the team and to pretend that their fans are cheering for us,” Smith said. “When we hear them getting excited and that sort of thing, let that fuel us to perform great and to not focus on anything but the routines they have to do.”

In addition to providng some experience on the road, the meet will also present an opportunity for the gymnasts who rested in last week’s Southeastern Conference opener against Kentucky to return to competition again.

After skipping out on the balance beam due to an injured toe, freshman all-arounder Alaina Johnson said she is ready to get back to competing in four events tonight.

“It’s feeling a lot better,” Johnson said. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to do all four events at LSU.”

Johnson is fresh off her second SEC Freshman Gymnast of the Week award, but coach Rhonda Faehn said the coaches need to be careful with the new gymnast.

“We as a coaching staff have to be very smart with her,” Faehn said. “She has a very fragile body, so we have to make sure we rest her and pace her so that she’s still performing at her top at the end of the season.”

The staff also took Smith off the floor exercise last week to save her for tonight’s meet against the Tigers.

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“I’m a little more rested than I would’ve been if I had competed last week,” Smith said. “I’m hoping that my legs are fresh and ready to do a great floor routine and vault this weekend.”

Although the lineups are going to experience the return of some rested gymnasts, there will be one noticeable absence on the beam roster.

Sophomore Liz Green, who tied for first place in beam last week, will not be competing tonight. Green has a stress fracture and needs to rest her back, Faehn said. Because of the injury, the worst-case scenario is that Green will be out for four to five weeks.

“We’re fortunate that we have depth so that we’ll be able to be OK,” she said. “It’s a great time to get it under way now, on the road, and get it started so that when we go on the road with Georgia and Utah and other competitions that we’ll have more consistency established with a different lineup.”

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