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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
<p>Senior Alaina Johnson performs on the uneven bars during UF’s 198.125-197.625 win against LSU on Feb. 21.</p>

Senior Alaina Johnson performs on the uneven bars during UF’s 198.125-197.625 win against LSU on Feb. 21.

Florida may have fallen — but not too far.

Despite falls from top competitors Mackenzie Caquatto, Bridget Sloan and Kytra Hunter, Florida claimed the 2014 University Park Regional title to advance to the NCAA Championship.

“When Bridget and Mackenzie fell – it is so uncharacteristic for both of them,” coach Rhonda Faehn said. “I think that is the first time Macko has fallen in two years. And Bridget is a 9.95 almost every time she gets up there.”

Both Sloan and Caquatto suffered falls on beam. Sloan ended up with a 9.225 and Caquatto a 9.300, resulting in a 48.575 team score on beam that claimed the bottom spot in the meet and Florida’s 2014 record book.

“I would say our competition was off,” Faehn said. “It was not what we are capable of.”

The Gators then had some down time with about a 20-minute bye before they competed on floor. Normally one of its top events, Florida posted a 49.375 on floor, its second lowest event score of the night.

UF’s saving grace was vault, where it posted a meet-best 49.550 to cap off its time in University Park, Penn.

“We rebounded really well on vault and that was the fight I was looking for,” Faehn said.

“I thought we had a few uncharacteristic mistakes on different routines from different people – almost fluky.”

Penn State claimed the second spot on the podium and the final ticket to nationals with a 196.725 total. Florida’s 197.050 mark was the second lowest the team has posted all year.

“Today’s performance was a little uncharacteristic, but at the same time these competitions are what make us stronger, are what make us think and work harder in the gym,” Sloan said in a postgame press conference. “Obviously we didn’t want to happen quite like this, but in the end you have to look back on it and take it and learn from it.”

A fall from Hunter on bars scored her a 9.275, which in turn took her out of the all-around competition. Sloan’s beam fall had the same effect on her all-around (39.050), allowing Alaina Johnson to claim her second all-around win of the year with a score of 39.550.

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For a meet that Faehn called Florida’s roughest competition yet, the Gators managed to win each event on top of UF’s third consecutive regional title.

Sloan won vault with a 9.950 and tied with Caquatto (9.95) for the top spot on bars. Johnson’s 9.850 on beam tied her for a title win with three other gymnasts, and Hunter’s floor routine delivered a 9.950 and event title win.

“It’s definitely my favorite routine of all three years,” Hunter said, “and so I think with me loving the routine and being able to sell the dance and the tumbling putting it all together definitely helped me get a good score.”

Florida will now prepare to defend the program’s first national championship in Birmingham, Ala., on April 18-19.

“The athletes are resilient,” Faehn said. “They’ll be anxious to get back in the gym.”

Follow Erica A. Hernandez on Twitter @EricaAlyssa

Senior Alaina Johnson performs on the uneven bars during UF’s 198.125-197.625 win against LSU on Feb. 21.

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