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Saturday, May 25, 2024

As the most important meet of the season draws near, the Gators will be faced with a special test: mending two areas that need perfecting before the NCAA National Championships in two weeks.

The Gators’ rocky beam performance is being addressed by increasing pressure situations in practice. The No. 5 Gators will open the national meet with the event that has proven the most challenging for them throughout the season. 

Beam has been Florida’s lowest-scoring event in 10 of 12 meets this season, including the Southeastern Conference Championships and the NCAA Regional.

“If we push hard in practice, we can go into nationals, get beam out of the way, rock it and then be able to relax and have the energy for the rest of the meet,” senior Alicia Goodwin said.

Coach Rhonda Faehn has sought to create an environment in practice that will mirror the competition in Cleveland. If the gymnasts falter on their routines, they won’t be allowed to jump off the beam and start again.

“Sometimes the athletes get lazy, and if they make a mistake, they will just stop and start over as opposed to just finishing it out and making the absolute best of it,” Faehn said. “No more of that.” 

The second area in which the Gators need improvement, the one they struggled most with at regionals, was the lack of enthusiasm and energy during the competition.

Pumping excitement into athletes isn’t something that’s easily coached. But the staff is trying.

Faehn instructed each gymnast to read about what it takes to be a leader, hoping to instill the burst of energy they had at the beginning of the season.

“I told them to read through it and examine yourself,” she said. “See if you’ve been acting in a manner that’s positive for the team, or if you’ve been acting in a way that may be a distraction.”

Faehn stressed that the gymnasts know what to do physically, as they did all season en route to a No. 1 national ranking. They must simply put everything together this weekend to pursue their dream of a national title.

“This is the exact talented team that has had so much success this season,” she said. “But the difference maker is going to be their hearts and what they’re going to put into it.”

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