No. 1 Florida was nearly flawless on the uneven bars in a high-scoring 198.125-197.875 loss to No. 7 Utah on Saturday, a trend that has been consistent this season.
With Southeastern Conference Championships on Saturday, the Gators will look for similar production to spark a successful postseason run.
Florida heads to Little Rock, Ark., with the highest score on bars in the NCAA. Boasting a season average score of 49.465, Florida’s strongest rotation will bolster its chance against the conference’s top competition.
Four SEC teams are currently among the nation’s top 10 — No. 1 Florida, No. 3 Alabama, No. 5 Georgia and No. 6 LSU.
Each is also currently among the eight highest performers on bars in the NCAA. Georgia’s Chelsea Davis and Brittany Rogers rank in the top 10. LSU’s Sarie Morrison ranks sixth.
And with the current SEC seeding, Florida will be competing in the second session that includes all three programs. As the top seed in its session, UF will compete in the Olympic rotation — vault, bars, balance beam and floor – giving it an advantage with its quality events coming first.
“Bars is a very good event for us,” coach Rhonda Faehn said. “We do have quality swingers.”
Three of Florida’s gymnasts rank atop the NCAA in the event – Mackenzie Caquatto and Bridget Sloan rank first with a 9.945 average, while Kytra Hunter is seventh with a 9.91.
Caquatto, who suffered double-ankle injuries prior to the SEC tournament in 2012, will be at full-strength. As a sophomore, she competed exclusively on bars but will now compete on three events.
Her presence will help as Florida competes without All-American Alaina Johnson, who Faehn said should add more depth to an already strong rotation if she returns.
Against No. 14 Minnesota on March 1, Florida put together the nation’s highest score on bars with a 49.675.
“I think bars is one of those events that you have to get comfortable with,” Bridget Sloan said. “My bars routine, for me, I am very comfortable with it.”
Competing for Florida, Sloan said her routine has seen a decrease in skills. During her Elite career, Sloan performed 23 skills on her bars routine. Now, that has been reduced to just 13.
But the freshman standout is not disappointed in the transition.
“I’ve cut it in half, and it’s nice to take a step back because when you’re Elite you get drained.”
Florida’s bars rotation will remain critical on Saturday.
Added Mackenzie Caquatto: “Knowing that we have that one event that we’re very strong at is definitely a confidence booster.”
Gymnast Mackenzie Caquatto performs her beam routine during Florida’s 196.975-196.075 win against Kentucky on Feb. 22 in the O’Connell Center.