Rhonda Faehn has slowly worked out a few wrinkles.
With the Southeastern Conference Championships less than two months away, Faehn has been quite versatile with her lineups, and the different combinations have paid off.
“The entire season before SEC [Championships], regionals and nationals, it’s the opportunity for our athletes to learn, to grow, adapt and to become stronger competitors,” Faehn said.
Freshman Bianca Dancose-Giambattisto was given a chance to learn against Auburn last Friday.
Replacing All-American Alaina Johnson, who sat out with a sore back, on uneven bars against the Tigers, Dancose-Giambattisto turned in a 9.925 in her collegiate premiere as a Gator.
Despite performing an untested dismount, her score matched Alaina Johnson’s 2011 mark as the highest score posted in a bars lineup debut.
“When she competed elite for Canada she had a different dismount and we told her [the double layout] was something she needed to learn, and she did,” Faehn said.
“So to come out and not only do something new, be in the pressure of the line-up and stick (the landing), I think that said a lot for her and her mental toughness.”
Florida’s gymnasts are averaging 9.82 on bars. Dancose-Giambattisto’s sample size may be small but it speaks volumes to the depth of Florida’s rotations.
“I want them to be sure that when they put me in the lineup that I can hit the routine, stick it every time and always go for the 10,” Dancose-Giambattisto said.
Faehn said Johnson might be out for more than several meets, which should free up space on the uneven bars rotation and in other events for Dancose-Giambattisto tonight at Arkansas.
So far, Faehn has been thoroughly impressed with Dancose-Giambattisto's abilities.
“She’s a natural bars swinger,” Faehn said. “She’s a beautiful bars swinger with incredible extension and toe point.”
Sophomore Rachel Spicer made her balance beam debut competing alongside Dancose-Giambattisto on Jan. 13. She recorded a 9.125 despite making a mistake on her layout mid-routine.
Spicer, like Dancose-Giambattisto, subbed in for the injured Johnson.
“Putting the new faces out there in the different lineups and just adjusting to the new lineups quick just shows us just how mentally strong we are,” Hunter said.
The Gators travel to Fayetteville, Ark., to defend their No. 1 ranking against the Razorbacks. Dancose-Giambattisto may find time again on uneven bars, but if last week was any indication, she may not know until tonight.
“[Faehn] told me actually the day of the competition that I was going to compete,” Dancose-Giambattisto said. “Just going out there and doing an awesome routine felt really good and boosted my confidence.”
UF gymnastics coach Rhonda Faehn's freshmen struggled early in the season.