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Sunday, June 23, 2024
<p>Florida sophomore Alaina Johnson will make her season debut on vault tonight against Kentucky, but she will not compete on floor.</p>

Florida sophomore Alaina Johnson will make her season debut on vault tonight against Kentucky, but she will not compete on floor.

Heading into Southeastern Conference play, the Gators prefer to focus on themselves rather than their opponents.

Coach Rhonda Faehn said No. 8 Florida (2-0) isn’t concerned with how well Kentucky (2-2, 0-1 SEC) performs when the Gators visit the Wildcats at the Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Ky., tonight at 7 p.m.

“We don’t ever necessarily look at whom we’re going against because we can’t control who that is,” Faehn said. “We have our job to do. Each athlete knows where they want to make improvements, or what their goal is.”

The Gators are coming off two impressive victories — a 196.025-194.675 road win against North Carolina State on Jan. 6 and a 196.175-191.875 throttling of Illinois-Chicago in their home opener last Friday.

Kentucky’s season, on the other hand, hasn’t begun as smoothly. The Wildcats, who entered the season ranked 23rd in the nation, placed second in their opening quad meet at home against Bowling Green and Wisconsin-Oshkosh, but  finished behind No. 10 Oklahoma.

Last Friday, UK was stomped by No. 3 Arkansas in its SEC opener, 196.650 to 191.975.

The Wildcats are also getting accustomed to rookie head coach Tim Garrison, who previously served as an assistant coach at Nebraska for five years.

Despite a rough start, Kentucky might end up being UF’s toughest challenge so far this season.

But Florida isn’t focused on how Big Blue Nation’s team performs.

“The mindset is just to compete just like we’ve trained,” sophomore Alaina Johnson said. “(We’re going to) just go out there and stay in our own little bubble.”

For UF’s top-ranked freshman class, tonight’s meet will serve as an introduction to the SEC, which currently features six of the nation’s top 25 teams. Kentucky is ranked seventh in the league with a team average of 193.150.

“I’m not really thinking about competing against an SEC school,” freshman Kytra Hunter said. “I’m just thinking about doing my routines to the best of my ability.”

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Faehn said tonight’s event lineups will look different from last Friday’s rotations against UIC.

Hunter will not be an all-around competitor for the first time this year, Johnson will make her 2012 vault debut and juniors Ashanée Dickerson and Marissa King will compete as all-arounders.

Also, sophomore Mackenzie Caquatto is set to make her return to beam after she suffered an ankle injury at the final selection camp for the U.S. world championships team in September.

Although Faehn said she wants the Gators to stick more landings and get better handstands on uneven bars, she doesn’t want them to use up all of their strength against the Wildcats.

“We don’t want anybody out there at their full-blown best right now,” Faehn said. “There’s three months of season left.”

Florida sophomore Alaina Johnson will make her season debut on vault tonight against Kentucky, but she will not compete on floor.

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