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Monday, May 27, 2024

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The Florida gymnastics team walked into a meet where a loud,

barking crowd outnumbered their supporters by the thousands. 

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But among the sold out stands, senior Maranda Smith heard a

familiar voice. 

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“Lets go Gators!” 

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Whenever Smith’s father walks into a gymnastics meet, he makes his

presence known when he shouts three comforting words. While her

parents travel from California and usually come to all the home

meets, they told her that they wouldn’t be able to make it to

Georgia. 

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Turns out, they fibbed. 

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“My parents surprised me,” she said.  “It was funny because I heard

my dad yell. I just figured, knowing my parents, they wouldn’t ever

miss a competition like this.”

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The Georgia Bulldogs are one of the Gators’ biggest rivals, and No.

1 Florida overwhelmed them in a 197.725 to 196.600 win. 

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Smith said that she was excited and fired up knowing her parents

were there before the meet kicked off, and she carried that fire

over into her competition. 

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She nabbed first place on vault, tying teammates Ashanée Dickerson

and Alaina Johnson. 

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But, Johnson too, had her own cheering section.

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Her mother’s side of the family hails from Georgia and a crowd of

more than 40 relatives turned out to support the gymnast. 

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“There were people in my family that I haven’t even met, like my

mom’s cousins,” Johnson said. “I didn’t know that there was that

many.” 

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The three-time SEC Freshman Gymnast of the Week didn’t disappoint

as she three-way tied for first on vault, tied for second on floor,

three-way tied for third on beam and most notably, tied for first

on bars — earning the magic 10 from one half of the judging

panel.

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usually don’t look at my scores,” she said. “I actually didn’t even

know that I got a 10. The other girls were all going crazy telling

me about the 10, but I put it to the side and got ready for

vault.” 

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Her scores propelled her into the No. 1 spot for the all-arounder

competitors with a final tally of 39.675, the nation’s top

total. 

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Fellow all-arounder, sophomore Dickerson, also shined against the

Bulldogs, placing second in the all-around while tying for first on

vault and beam and sweeping the floor exercise.

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