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Monday, May 27, 2024

When the Gators took the floor Friday night, freshman walk-on Jade Wiggins was the first to come running out of the foggy Gator head tunnel.

It was symbolic of the entire weekend of back-to-back competition, as the UF coaching staff utilized the weekend as an opportunity to rest the gymnasts already familiar with competition, pushing more inexperienced gymnasts into the spotlight..

No. 1 Florida maintained its spotless, undefeated season, beating Auburn at home on Friday and George Washington, West Virginia and New Hampshire in Morgantown, W.Va., on Sunday.

“The team really showed that we do have a lot of depth,” UF coach Rhonda Faehn said.  “We’re working on getting more faces out there on the competition floor so that we’re able to continue to rest some of the athletes that we feel really we need to pace to be fresh at the end of the season.”

While Southeastern Conference Gymnast of the Week Alaina Johnson and freshman all-arounder Mackenzie Caquatto didn’t take part in either meet over the weekend, freshmen walk-ons Wiggins and Lauren Rose officially competed for the first time this season.

Though Wiggins had a shaky debut with her 9.125 debut on floor Friday, Faehn said she was pleased with her exhibition performance on balance beam.

Rose posted a 9.8 on floor Friday and a 9.75 on Sunday.

Senior Maranda Smith said she could relate to the pressure on Rose and Wiggins, as Smith first joined the Gators in the spring semester.

“For both of them, especially coming in just in January, I know how nerve-wracking that is,” she said. “They both jumped right in, and they work extremely hard.”

Freshman all-arounder Brittney Noble returned to the floor after a foot injury that had sidelined her since the close of the team’s season opener against Nebraska.

However the tendinitis-stricken gymnast had a shaky return on floor — first with a 9.625, going out of bounds against the Tigers, and a 9.3 performance on Sunday.

Faehn said she was pleased with the weekend’s performance overall, but the gymnasts still need more work.

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Although Florida still came out of the weekend with two more victories under its belt, the Gators didn’t rack up the nation-high totals they have been posting in meets throughout the season.

“We always want the big score. We want the best athletes out there all the time,” Faehn said. “However, you have to set that aside and look at what’s best for the team and what’s best for the long run, and not about the instant satisfaction of a score. And that’s not important right now.”

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