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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

The Gators were already sitting pretty with a No. 1 national team ranking.

Now, the gymnasts are making their marks in the individual ranks.

Four UF gymnasts place in the nation’s top five performers in uneven parallel bars, balance beam, vault, floor exercise and all-around.

In the bars, freshman Alaina Johnson is tied for fifth place with two others in the individual rankings, which are based on an average that eliminates her nation-high score of 9.975.

“Bars has always been one of my best events,” she said. “I try to focus during workouts on getting a good shape and just keeping real tight in one position and of course, hitting all my handstands. I like swinging bars, so it’s easier for me to want to work hard on that event.”

In her position as an all-arounder, Johnson currently holds the nation’s top score in a single meet with a 39.675.

Fellow freshman all-arounder Mackenzie Caquatto is tied for the No. 2 ranking for balance beam. She said she spent the duration of her time in the gym focusing on the finer details, while she was only concerned about physically staying on the beam.

“Every chin up and every finish really makes a difference on what the judges really think about your routine,” she said. “Even if it’s not the greatest, the way you present yourself can make them think, ‘Oh, that’s the best she’s ever done it,’ because they’ve never seen you compete before, which can have a really big effect on your score.”

Caquatto’s mentality garnered a 9.975 on beam, a collegiate-best for the Illinois native, this weekend in West Virginia.

Sophomore all-arounder Ashanée Dickerson also racked up a 9.975 on balance beam this season and is no stranger to reeling in the big scores.

Dickerson has been one of the Gators’ most prominent performers since coming to UF.

This season, the two-time All-American is tied for fifth on vault, ranks second in all-around and is tied for first on floor.

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Dickerson said she feels she has improved her polish with the finish of each meet. 

“I’ve gotten a lot cleaner throughout the season,” she said. “Focusing on my landings, making sure they’re good and not stepping around or moving my feet once I land.”

Though sophomore Marissa King isn’t nationally ranked on floor, because she hasn’t competed in at least three away meets, she has matched the nation’s top floor score (9.975), receiving a 10 from half of the judging panel against Alabama.

“When I got that score, it was so fun,” she said. “I was going crazy. It was a really special moment. I’ll remember it for a long time and how I felt when I got it.”

In addition to the gymnasts’ individual rankings, the Gators’ team ranking is also first in the nation — the first time UF gymnastics has accomplished that in program history.

Although the gymnasts are making their marks nationally, they all are focused on maintaining the top spot for the team.

“I don’t want to slow down,” Dickerson said. “I just want to keep motivated and working hard to stay at No. 1.”

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