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Sunday, June 23, 2024
<p>Florida junior gymnast Marissa King said the Gators are not concentrating on their newfound No. 1 ranking, instead choosing to use that as motivation to continue improving.</p>

Florida junior gymnast Marissa King said the Gators are not concentrating on their newfound No. 1 ranking, instead choosing to use that as motivation to continue improving.

For coach Rhonda Faehn’s team, the pivotal stretch of 2012 begins tonight.

Florida (8-1, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) will put its new No. 1 ranking to the test when it hosts No. 3 Georgia (5-2, 4-1 SEC) in the O’Connell Center at 7 p.m. to finish its SEC slate.

After facing the Bulldogs, UF will close out its regular season at No. 9 Nebraska and then at home against No. 5 Utah.

“Our athletes are very excited for this, but it’s all about getting better and hitting cleaner routines,” Faehn said. “In our conference, everybody is so strong, so you really have to be on your ‘A’ game.”

Florida is 1-1 against top-10 opponents after defeating then-No. 1 Arkansas on Jan. 27 and falling to then-No. 6 Alabama a week later.

After cruising past Auburn 197.500-196.875 last Friday, UF jumped a spot in this week’s GymInfo rankings to become the top-ranked team for the first time this season.

The Gators are familiar with being No. 1, but the honor didn’t convert to any postseason success last year, and hasn’t translated to national championships historically. 

Florida held the top spot in the rankings in 11 of the 12 weeks of the 2011 regular season. Though, UF eventually failed to live up to its previous production, placing second at the SEC Championships and missing the cut to make the NCAA Super Six by .75 points.

Since 2006, the Gators have been ranked No. 1 a total of 29 times. But they haven’t won a national title since claiming the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women Championship in 1982.

“That’s kind of the mistake we made last year; we were stuck at the top and had nowhere to go,” junior Marissa King said. “But being ranked (No. 1) now, we’re going to be using that as motivation, knowing that we’re here and we need to stay here.”

While UF’s top ranking is based on its 196.929 season average, Georgia isn’t too far off.

The Bulldogs average a team total of 196.725, which ties for third in the country with defending national champion Alabama. Georgia is coming off a dominant 197.225-193.125 victory against Kentucky last Saturday afternoon.

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Also, UGA’s top all-around competitor, Kat Ding, is tied for the No. 1 all-around average in the nation (39.55).

While Faehn’s prime concern is her gymnasts’ long-term health, she said she would likely showcase her strongest lineup against the Bulldogs.

“Looking at the big picture, this is one step in the process of what our goal is, which is to win SECs and put ourselves in the position to possibly win a national title,” Faehn said.

“When they come running out of the Gator head [tonight], it’s just game on.”

Florida junior gymnast Marissa King said the Gators are not concentrating on their newfound No. 1 ranking, instead choosing to use that as motivation to continue improving.

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