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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Although it was the biggest meet of the season, something was off for the Florida gymnastics team on Saturday.

“They were very flat,” UF coach Rhonda Faehn said. “I didn’t feel that they had a lot of spirit or energy.”

The No. 1 Gators’ performances weren’t up to their usual standards at the NCAA North Central Region Championships, and Florida was edged 196.550 to 196.425 by No. 12 Arkansas, dropping UF to second among the six teams in Denver.

UF will move on to the NCAA Championships on April 15 despite nearly seeing its season come to a close, edging out third-place Boise State by just .025 points.

“It was ugly. It was a very uncharacteristic performance for us, and I really don’t have an explanation for it. There are no excuses,” Faehn said. “I thought they fought hard, but again, this meet is definitely one I’d like to forget.”

After apprehensive performances in the Southeastern Conference Championships, Faehn said this competition wasn’t much different.

“They didn’t come out and compete aggressively,” Faehn said. “They’re all great performers, but we allowed the doubts to creep in.”

While freshman Alaina Johnson finished No. 1 in the all-around, Faehn said she was disappointed in UF’s “lackluster energy” overall, and she is glad the team was able to advance despite the poor performances.

When Florida kicked off its floor exercise, the outlook seemed promising.

Sophomore Marissa King completed the double layout in her routine, which Faehn described as beautiful. Johnson also had a solid performance, as both she and King posted 9.9s, placing them in the four-way tie for second in the event.

But when the competition turned to vault, Faehn said the gymnasts’ landings were worse than they were at SECs.

All-arounders Johnson and sophomore Ashanée Dickerson managed to pull through, escaping with a three-way tie for first place.

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The only event Faehn said the gymnasts performed better in was bars, as freshman Mackenize Caquatto snagged first with a 9.95 and Johnson grabbed second with a 9.925.

But things fell apart on beam, as the usually solid and consistent Elizabeth Mahlich posted a 9.225 while Dickerson stumbled to the second-lowest score of the competition with an 8.475.

But senior Maranda Smith was confident the team would be able to fix its problems heading into the NCAA Championships on April 15. 

“We all have good mindsets, and we are willing to sacrifice anything for the team,” Smith said. “This team hasn’t lost the will and the drive to win a national championship.”

“We’re going to put them under more pressure situations,” Faehn added. “We’ll be putting them in real uncomfortable positions on beam and see who is going to rise to the occasion.”

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