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Sunday, June 23, 2024

Down to the Cornhuskers by only hundredths of a point heading into the final rotation, the Gators saved their best for last on balance beam. 

No. 1 Florida (10-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) finished with a 49.325 beam total, capped off by junior Marissa King’s 9.925, to rally past No. 6 Nebraska (10-2, 3-0 Big Ten) 196.950-196.825 in the Bob Devaney Sports Center for its closest win of the season Sunday afternoon. 

“It was a really great way for us to finish and come up with the win here,” said coach Rhonda Faehn, who was an assistant at Nebraska for five seasons before taking over at Florida in 2003. 

“We knew we were down just a little bit heading into the last event. I wanted to see the team put it all out there.”

Since the event was a double dual meet, with the Nebraska men’s team competing against Arizona State at the same time, the environment in Lincoln was the busiest UF faced on the road this year. 

The Gators started slow out of the gate, only accomplishing one stuck landing on uneven bars. After the first rotation, Florida trailed Nebraska by .15.

Faehn said her team had trouble adjusting to the bars’ slipperiness. After senior Nicole Ellis peeled off the bars in her second touch warm-up, the team appeared nervous.  

“It’s not an excuse. You have to adjust,” Faehn said. “You have to find a way to make the best out of it.”

At the halfway point, the Gators trailed the Cornhuskers 98.725-98.55. 

The Gators struggled the most on floor exercise Sunday. Stumbles on tumbling passes and short landings led to a 9.65 for sophomore Alaina Johnson and a 9.75 for Ashanée Dickerson. 

While UF posted its lowest score of the night on floor (49.075), Nebraska recorded a 48.95 on beam to shorten the deficit to .05. 

“I challenged the team again and I wanted to see their heart on the last event, to put it all out there and to be aggressive,” Faehn said.

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Florida had a scare on beam with freshman Rachel Spicer, who tallied a 9.375. After junior Randy Stageberg started with a 9.825, Spicer went next and nearly fell, holding onto the beam. The play resulted in a heavy point deduction for Spicer. 

After Spicer’s error, the following Gators compensated for her low mark, scoring at least a 9.85 each. 

King, the final gymnast on UF’s beam lineup, then made the closing statement. 

“Ashanée went to me after her routine and gave me strong words,” King said. “She was telling me to 'not hold back, go big and you’ve got this.’ That really helped.”

King’s 9.925 was the highest Florida score on any individual event. The score also helped her claim her third consecutive beam title and her sixth of 2012.

Nebraska’s Jessie DeZiel and Emily Wong shared the all-around title (39.450). Freshman Kytra Hunter placed third with a 39.375, and Dickerson and Johnson tied for fifth overall at 39.275. 

Dickerson and Johnson tied with two Nebraska gymnasts for the vault win (9.9). 

NU’s Janelle Giblin and Lora Evenstad shared the bars title at 9.925. DeZiel and Wong also picked up floor wins (9.875).

On a day when high scores were hard to come by, the Cornhuskers claimed at least a share of four of the five individual titles. 

But the Gators left Lincoln, Neb., with the victory – and even more confidence going forward. 

“We just fight until the end,” King said. “That’s what was great about [Sunday].”

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