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Saturday, April 20, 2024
<p>Kytra Hunter performs a balance beam routine during Florida’s 198.125-197.625 win against LSU on Feb. 21 in the O’Connell Center. Hunter and the Gators begin competing at the NCAA Championships on April 18.</p>

Kytra Hunter performs a balance beam routine during Florida’s 198.125-197.625 win against LSU on Feb. 21 in the O’Connell Center. Hunter and the Gators begin competing at the NCAA Championships on April 18.

Kytra Hunter battled more than nerves at the 2014 NCAA Regionals meet. The junior all-arounder competed through an illness she’d been fighting the week prior.

“I had a temperature that was over 100 so I like wasn’t really eating,” Hunter said. “My head was just killing me.”

The week prior to regionals, Hunter missed the team’s final practice before departing for Happy Valley because she was resting and seeking treatment from the team’s doctor.

She said she was not officially diagnosed with the flu or prescribed her any medicine. The doctor’s orders were to let the sickness work its way out of her system — a challenge with the two most important meets of postseason looming.

Hunter said she never considered missing regionals.

“I love competing so I never ruled that out,” Hunter said. “It was just more of like, I wanted to get better and get my energy back but that always takes a while after you’re sick.”

Coach Rhonda Faehn could tell Hunter wasn’t her usual self when the Gators arrived at Penn State.

“I thought we had a tremendous practice day but Kytra, she wasn’t there. I mean she was there but she wasn’t there,” Faehn said. “She didn’t do anything in practice day: not a beam dismount, didn’t do a double layout of floor. She said by the end of just running down the vault runway she had no energy to even vault so many times she didn’t go.”

Hunter has competed all-around for the Gators at all but one meet in the 2014 season.

“I literally could not feel my legs when we were competing because I was just sick and wasn’t eating and doing gymnastics,” Hunter said. “Just all that combined was kind of a mess.”

The mess resulted in a fall on bars and season low 9.25 for Hunter.

“I mean of course it could have been a lot better, but also looking at all the mistakes there’s no telling what would have happened if I was feeling 100 percent,” she said.

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“Hopefully, I can keep the sickness away because I’ve been sick a couple of times actually this season.”

Hunter bounced back from her fall on bars with strong balance beam (9.80) and floor (9.95) routines.

“I’m just glad I could overcome my sickness and be able to do that,” she said. “Having the team be able to count on me especially after going after two falls last weekend and hitting a strong routine. Even though I didn’t score high it was definitely a strong routine for me.”

Hunter’s fall on bars prevented her from placing high in the all-around competition with a total of 38.925 — her lowest of the year.

But she did manage a win on floor, an event in which she’s already scored four perfect 10s so far this season.

Faehn said that all things considered, Hunter did well.

“But she was able to pull it together enough for the competition even though she had a fall on bars but I think that she will be fine,” Faehn said.

Looking ahead, Hunter said she’s feeling better and is working on being the strongest she can be for the three-day NCAA Championship meet in Birmingham, Ala., from April 18-20.

“I have to be my strongest,” Hunter said. “Just making sure that I eat and doing any extra cardio that I need. Just staying with that and making sure that I’m staying fit.”

Follow Erica A. Hernandez on Twitter @EricaAlyssa

Kytra Hunter performs a balance beam routine during Florida’s 198.125-197.625 win against LSU on Feb. 21 in the O’Connell Center. Hunter and the Gators begin competing at the NCAA Championships on April 18.

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