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Tuesday, February 27, 2024
<p>Freshman Alex McMurtry competes on the uneven parallel bars during Florida's win against Auburn on Friday in the O'Connell Center.</p>

Freshman Alex McMurtry competes on the uneven parallel bars during Florida's win against Auburn on Friday in the O'Connell Center.

Many gymnasts likely wish they had half the talent of Alex McMurtry.

But McMurtry just wishes she could get half their practice time.

Through three meets of the 2015 season, the freshman has already established herself as the future of the UF gymnastics program. She scored a perfect 10 in just her second vault as a Gator against Auburn, responded with a 9.925 bars routine in the very next rotation and came back the next week to score a 9.950 on vault against Alabama in a week when many Gators struggled.

McMurtry has scored no worse than a 9.825 in the three events she has competed in this season — vault, bars and beam — and she has competed in all three the last two weeks.

But what most do not know is the 18-year-old has done it all while training only about 25 percent as much as her teammates.

McMurtry has three separate stress fractures in her back that she has been dealing with since her sophomore year in high school, and the pain dictates how much she can do each day in training.

"It kinda depends," she said. "Me and my trainer talk about it every day. Every day I walk in she says ‘How is it today?’ and I’ll say ‘It’s a good day, it’s a medium day, it’s an OK day,’ so sometimes it doesn’t matter what I do the day before or that day, it’s just I wake up and I’m in pain."

The injury has created a delicate situation for coach Rhonda Faehn, who is faced with the daily challenge of keeping McMurtry fresh and healthy while still pushing her to continually elevate her skills.

"I have to be very careful with her," Faehn said. "She is so good and so talented and has so much potential. I just have to be careful because right now she just can’t do the numbers, so it’s a fine line."

The good thing for Faehn is McMurtry’s talent level is overwhelming to the point that the lack of training hasn’t affected her Friday night performances.

Even as a college freshman who by age should be a high school senior — she graduated from high school a year early — McMurtry displays the composure of a seasoned veteran.

"What I love about Alex is that she is a very, what I would say, intelligent gymnast because she knows what her body is doing," Faehn said. "She knows upside down ‘OK, I’m a little bit off and I need to make this correction.’ It’s not like she’s startled by anything, and that’s a really impressive trait to be able to have.

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"There are some athletes who have to get that way by doing massive amounts of numbers, that’s what they have to do. And then there’s other athletes that can not do as many numbers and they know how to get where they need to get, and that’s Alex."

Faehn hopes McMurtry will be able to compete on floor - the freshman’s best event from Faehn’s perspective - at some point this season, provided her back heals to the point where the pain would be tolerable.

"It’s hard to figure out if you want to tumble on floor and maybe risk it getting worse, or if you just wanna stick with the three events," McMurtry said.

"Floor was my favorite event, so I wanna be back on floor, I wanna be competing all-around. I love doing my own routine, like floor is that one that really sticks out."

If she is able to compete on floor this season - even just half as well as she has been in her other events - the rest of the country has a full-blown problem on its hands.

 Follow Graham Hack on Twitter @graham_hack24

Freshman Alex McMurtry competes on the uneven parallel bars during Florida's win against Auburn on Friday in the O'Connell Center.

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