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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

The Florida gymnastics team’s stamina will be pushed to its limit this weekend.

Though the Gators will stick to their usual grind by taking on Auburn at home Friday, they will have only brushed the surface of their competition for the weekend.

After the meet against the Tigers, No. 1 UF will travel to Morgantown, W.Va., to face off against West Virginia, New Hampshire and George Washington on Sunday.

“This is a good test for our athletes both mentally and physically,” coach Rhonda Faehn said. “There’s a day off in between, but it’s a day of travel, so they should be able to test themselves for back-to-back competition.”

 The weekend will serve as additional preparation for March and April, when the Gators will be faced with rigorous, consecutive competition for the Southeastern Conference and NCAA meets.

Faehn is using the two-meet weekend as an opportunity for the younger gymnasts to come out of the exhibition slot.

Freshman walk-on Lauren Rose has already had a glimpse of performing in front of a college crowd, having done well in exhibition on floor on UF’s home mats twice this season.

Rose said acclimating to college gymnastics was a little nerve-wracking. 

“Everyone’s watching you,” she said. “But [performing exhibition] helped me get out there in front of everyone. It calms my nerves now, to go out there.”

Faehn plans on placing Rose in the floor lineup for both meets.

Sophomore Marissa King said the rest of the team has seen how hard the freshmen have been working in the gym this season, and she is eager to see them get their chance to perform.

“We see that sweat, we see those tears, we see everything that they put themselves through for each practice,” King said. “To finally see them to go out there and perform ... it’s something to treasure.”

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King stepped back last meet, only competing on vault after bruising a foot arch in practice.

“I caught the arch of my foot on the corner of [the beam],” King said. “It’s painful because it’s like the corner of a table. It’s a sharp corner. It couldn’t have really been prevented. I hope to be back to competing what I normally compete this weekend.”

The coaches are taking precautions with King this weekend, and they don’t plan to put her on floor or beam against Auburn, though they may have her do a watered-down floor routine in West Virginia.

While some athletes will have their roles scaled back, other gymnasts will perform in events outside of their comfort zones. Sophomore Dali Lemezan may get in on vault, and junior Nicole Ellis may have a chance to compete on floor.

This weekend could also pave the way for some injured Gators to get back in the game.

Freshman all-arounder Brittney Noble has been out for most of the season due to a foot injury but was diagnosed with tendinitis by doctors last week.

“We were happy that it wasn’t a stress fracture,” Faehn said. “It’s something that’s painful but manageable. We’re hoping to be able to get her back in either floor and vault, if not this weekend, then the next weekend against Arkansas.”

Florida will use upcoming meets to test the waters for different athletes, switching up the never-static lineups, allowing some gymnasts to shine and others to get some needed rest.

“It’s just going to be a little bit different for the next couple of meets,” Faehn said. “To be able to get everyone re-energized and to see what our depth can do.”

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