Florida freshman Bridget Sloan wasn’t awestruck by the O’Connell Center lights during Friday’s season opener against Ball State. She has been on a bigger stage before.
Instead of falling victim to the pressure of her college debut, Sloan, the Gators only competing freshman against the Cardinals, set the tone from the get-go.
The former Olympian stuck her first exercise at Florida, earning a 9.925 on vault to share the night’s event title with All-American Ashanee Dickerson.
Coach Rhonda Faehn said Sloan’s collected debut embodies the attitude of the No. 3 Gators’ current crop of freshmen.
“Last year’s freshmen were a little bit more what we’d say ‘deer in the headlights,’” Faehn said.
“But this group of freshmen, I think because they’ve competed at such a high level and have been under so many pressurized situations, they really don’t seem like they have trouble adjusting to this environment.”
Sloan competed on vault at the 2008 Beijing Olympics to help the U.S. earn a team silver medal. She is no stranger to high-level competition. Neither are the other freshman athletes.
Florida’s Bridgette Caquatto competed as a member of the U.S. Senior National Team in 2012. Bianca Dancose-Giambattisto has actively participated as a member of the Canadian National team. Morgan Frazier won all-around, vault and balance beam at the 2012 Florida Level 10 Championships.
Caquatto, Dancose-Giambattisto and Frazier are set to make their college debuts soon according to Faehn.
Florida’s talented freshmen provide depth, which will help keep the Gators healthy and rested for later competition.
“Our other freshmen are definitely getting closer to being ready for competition,” Faehn said. “The [freshmen] are coming along real well.”
Faehn added that Caquatto is on the verge of becoming an all-around competitor, while Dancose-Giambattisto may perform exclusively on bars in the upcoming events.
Faehn also said that Frazier appears ready to go on vault and may see exhibition or lineup time this Friday against No. 8 LSU.
However it plays out, Faehn is confident in the readiness of the freshman class to assume lineup spots if needed and to pick up where others may leave off.
“We just want every athlete to push one another, so that anytime we put someone out on the competition floor, they should be able to score really well no matter if they’re normally in the lineup or whether they feel it’s the first time they’ve been in it for a while,” Faehn said.
“That’s our goal.”