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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Georgia fans are known as merciless diehards, infamous for antagonizing, booing and even barking at the visiting Gators.

That’s the one thing guaranteed when Florida competes against the Bulldogs, and it doesn’t have a lick to do with competition.

The Gators will be faced with a sold-out crowd of more than 10,000 on Saturday at 4 p.m., as Stegeman Coliseum will likely be filled to its maximum capacity.

“I hear they have a bit of a rowdy crowd,” sophomore Marissa King said. “We just kind of have to focus on ourselves. Hopefully in the end, they’ll turn around and will be applauding us rather than booing us.”

Freshman all-arounder Alaina Johnson will find comfort knowing there will be at least a few Gators fans nestled among the sea of red and black.

Her mother’s side of the family stems from Georgia and will be in attendance to cheer her on. For some of them, Johnson said, it will be their first time seeing her compete.

While Johnson has some familiarity in Georgia, it will be the first time her roommate and freshman all-arounder Mackenzie Caquatto will have been to the state.

Though Caquatto said she loves to travel, the Southeastern Conference Freshman Gymnast of the Week expects it to be a challenge because of the packed house.

“We’re just going to try to stay focused on what we’re doing,” Caquatto said. “Try to focus on our skills and try to block them out as best we can, stay tight as a team and not let our mind wander into things that they’re saying.”

Sophomore Ashanée Dickerson said the coaching staff has been preparing the team all week for the rambunctious fans. Coach Rhonda Faehn added that the negativity the Bulldogs crowd hurls at them is far greater than any other venue due to the heated rivalry between the two schools.

“It’s just very strong,” Faehn said. “We don’t find that when we go to Utah. The fans there are very nice.”

Despite the distractions the Dawgs fans will provide, Faehn said the experience will end up being beneficial for her team.

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“We need our athletes to compete in those environments for them to learn ... and to test their mental strength so that it’s a learning experience,” she said. “If they’re able to handle it, well then, that’s a great sign.”

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