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Monday, May 27, 2024

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Moments before her collegiate debut on floor, Mackenzie Caquatto’s

thoughts were focused on her grandmother.  

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“This one’s for you,” Mackenzie Caquatto said to herself. 

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The freshman was amid the UF gymnastics team’s annual Link to Pink

meet, an effort to raise awareness for the fight against breast

cancer. A pink sea of more than 8,000 filled the O’Connell Center

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stands, all to watch the Gators take on North Carolina State and

Penn State. The scene was especially touching to Caquatto, as she

watched her grandmother push through her own battle with the

disease about six years ago. 

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Her grandmother came out of the fight victorious, and Caquatto and

teamates did the same in Friday’s tri-meet, 197.500 win for the

Gators.  

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her first-ever college floor performance, she posted up a 9.900,

nabbing second place in the event. Caquatto also reeled in the

number two spot for her balance beam routine and her run on uneven

parallel bars, posting a 9.900 and 9.925, respectively.

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“There was a little more meaning behind this meet,” she said. “We

did it more for [the breast cancer survivors] than for the team,

for the school, for yourself. There was something else back there

that really just dug deep in my heart and helped me do as good as I

did.” 

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The freshman is slowly coming into her spot as a regular

all-arounder for the Gators, as the coaching staff is phasing her

into new events with the notch of every meet in this season’s

belt.

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“She’ll definitely be an all-arounder,” coach Rhonda Faehn said.

“We took her out of vault tonight so that she wasn’t overwhelmed

that we added her on floor.”

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However, Caquatto wasn’t the only addition to floor Friday night.

Another freshman made a surprise appearance on the lineup that

wasn’t listed for the event when the meet kicked off at 7 p.m. 

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Following the completion of balance beam, freshman all-arounder

Alaina Johnson was pacing off to the side, separate from the

team. 

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One of the assistant coaches approached her after her beam

performance, and asked her if she wanted to finish the meet as an

all-arounder. 

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Originally, the coaching staff wanted to rest Johnson in

preparation for next Friday’s meet against Alabama. Focusing

heavily on her split-second decision, Johnson wanted to be sure she

was doing the best thing for her body. 

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was actually trying to decide if I was going to do floor or not,”

Johnson said. “I was trying to decide if my body could handle doing

all around this meet and the next two. You always have a bunch of

energy, of course, during competition. So it was hard for me to

decide, but I decided that I had enough energy.”

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Johnson stepped onto the floor as the lineup’s last competitor and

pulled out the event’s highest score at a 9.925. 

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Her floor performance, combined with her bars and vault score of

9.950, propelled her as the meet’s top all-arounder. The title was

her first all-around title in her college career. 

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Despite Ashanée Dickerson’s usual all-around dominance, Friday she

rested from floor exercise for the first time this year. 

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But just because she sat out on one event, didn’t mean Dickerson

skimped on taking another by storm. 

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After Dickerson stuck her landing on balance beam, one judge held

up the number that the crowd is always urging for — a perfect

10.

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“My heart was beating really fast and I just started jumping up and

down,” Dickerson said. “Rhonda told me to go out and wave to the

crowd.”

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Though the second judge gave Dickerson a score of a

still-impressive 9.950, her total beam performance earned her a

9.975. The number ties Dickerson for the second best score of all

time for the Gators. 

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The combination of the team’s stellar performances all welded

together to nab the Gators a final point tally of 197.500 — a

season best for the squad. 

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“The team just seems to be getting better and better,” sophomore

Marissa King said. “To get a 197.5 is phenomenal — unbelievable to

be honest. I’m just kind of speechless about how well we did

today.” 


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