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Tuesday, February 20, 2024
<p>Kiersten Wang performs her floor routine during Florida's win against Missouri on Friday in the O'Connell Center.</p>

Kiersten Wang performs her floor routine during Florida's win against Missouri on Friday in the O'Connell Center.

Coaching a team with too much depth cam be a good problem to have, but it still creates a dilemma.

With so many talented athletes separated by the slimmest of margins, making the right choice to fill the limited number of spots in the lineup is tough.

Florida coach Rhonda Faehn has had to make those types of choices this season, but her job is about to get even tougher.

Junior Bridget Sloan is expected to return to the bars lineup this week against No. 3 LSU, the first step in her comeback from an ankle injury that has sidelined her since the team’s first competition.

The team hopes Sloan will be able to gradually add events until she can compete all-around, ideally before the postseason.

Freshman Alex McMurtry began training on floor last week and will continue to do so this week, with the hope of adding the event by the postseason.

Add in senior Kytra Hunter and freshman Kennedy Baker, and Florida could have four gymnasts competing all-around by the end of the season — leaving the rest of the team to fight for the final two spots in each event.

"I’d be very happy if that were to happen," Faehn said, adding that the rest of the team would feel the same way. "All of these athletes are really just wanting the best for the program and the team."

"Like Bianca (Dancose-Giambattisto) said, ‘Hey, if it means someone else going in on beam that’s gonna do better, I’m gonna be screaming my loudest and cheering.’"

The situation has created a positive, hyper-competitive atmosphere within the team, with every training session being the difference between starting and sitting.

Faehn said she didn’t have her lineups finalized for Friday night’s meet against Missouri until after warmups.

"It’s definitely a combination of their consistency in the competition but also their consistency in training," she said. "Just because they did a great meet and they nailed a great routine, if they are tanking a little bit or struggling or sore in the training the week following, then they’re kinda put back under ‘Hey, you have to be able to have a great warmup.’"

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Faehn cited senior Kiersten Wang as an example.

Wang wasn’t able to practice well last week due to shin soreness, Faehn said, but a great warmup solidified her spot in the floor lineup.

"I challenged her, and she did amazing," Faehn said.

"That’s what I like to be able to see is when you challenge the athlete, do they rise to the occasion or do they kind of get tight from the pressure."

With just four regular season meets remaining for the Gators, there isn’t much time left to solidify lineups before the conference and NCAA championships.

And with the embarrassment of talent at her disposal, Faehn will need every second to determine who gives Florida the best chance to win a third-consecutive title.

"It is a good problem to have," she said.

 Follow Graham Hack on Twitter @graham_hack24

Kiersten Wang performs her floor routine during Florida's win against Missouri on Friday in the O'Connell Center.

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