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Wednesday, February 28, 2024
<p>Bridgette Caquatto performs her floor exercise routine during UF's win against Auburn.</p>

Bridgette Caquatto performs her floor exercise routine during UF's win against Auburn.

The Florida-Georgia rivalry runs deep, no matter if you’re talking football, foosball or finance class.

But tonight, the institutions face off on the competition floor as two of collegiate gymnastics’ most successful programs renew their rivalry in the O’Connell Center.

The No. 3 Gators (2-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) enter the meet coming off a difficult defeat at the hands of the Crimson Tide, and they will be looking to show signs of improvements in front of their home fans.

Coach Rhonda Faehn said the team’s practice on Monday was its best since coming back from Winter break, and she expects the level of competition Georgia offers to provide great opportunities for her gymnasts to be challenged.

"It is a very strong, competitive environment," she said, "because you have two wonderful programs — great gymnastics all around. It is, I feel, one of the best environments to have your athletes rise to the occasion.

"We always want to put ourselves in those challenges where you wanna see the athletes dig deep and have those amazing performances."

Florida rose to the occasion against Georgia last season when Bridget Sloan and Kytra Hunter posted back-to-back perfect 10s on floor in the Gators’ home-opener, leading to a school-record 49.875 in the event and a 198.05-196.70 win.

Florida has bested Georgia the last 14 times the two teams have met counting the postseason, while winning the last five dual meets.

This year, No. 11 Georgia (2-2, 2-0 SEC) enters the O’Connell Center coming off its best performance of the season, notching a 196.975 in a win against then-No. 14 Kentucky on Saturday in which the team set season-bests in every event.

But the Bulldogs have had a shaky first month of the year after already losing two of their first four meets — last week was the team’s first competition in which it did not count a fall.

Florida will be the third-straight top-15 opponent Georgia has faced this season.

UF freshman Alex McMurtry said she is looking forward to finally facing off against Georgia, a team she grew up watching when she was little.

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"When I was younger, Georgia was the one on top, so in college gymnastics you would always hear about the Gym Dogs killin’ it," she said, "and it’s exciting to now experience the other side of it."

For junior Bridgette Caquatto, tonight’s meet is an opportunity to finally move past the sting of last week’s loss. She said she and her teammates put too much pressure on themselves against Alabama, and she believes relaxing and enjoying the moment will be key to the team’s success.

"I think the team is just looking to get out there and have fun again," she said.

 Follow Graham Hack on Twitter @graham_hack24

 

Bridgette Caquatto performs her floor exercise routine during UF's win against Auburn.

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