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Tuesday, February 20, 2024
<p>Rachel Spicer and coach Rhonda Faehn point to Spicer's mom in the O'Connell Center crowd during Florida's win against Kentucky on Friday.</p>

Rachel Spicer and coach Rhonda Faehn point to Spicer's mom in the O'Connell Center crowd during Florida's win against Kentucky on Friday.

After her floor routine, Rachel Spicer pointed up to the spot where her mom was sitting and blew a kiss.

Her mom pointed back.

The emotions were evident.

In fact, the emotions were evident all night in the O’Connell Center as No. 3 Florida (6-2, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) defeated No. 25 Kentucky (4-5, 2-4 SEC) 198.125-195-950 in the Gators’ annual Link to Pink event.

The night was about honoring those battling breast cancer, one of whom is Spicer’s mother. It was the first time that Mickie Spicer had been able to attend a meet since beginning chemotherapy about a month ago, and her daughter put on a show for her.

The senior scored a season-best 9.925 on floor and tied her season-bests on both vault and beam with a 9.875 in each.

“I had the best meet of my life,” Spicer said. “I did it for my mom, and that’s probably why I did the best because I was doing it for someone so special to me. I dedicated it to her.”

The rest of her team didn’t disappoint, either.

On vault, the Gators set their season-best score with a 49.575, which was also tied for the fourth highest vault score in school history.

And on floor, Florida set another season-best and tied the second best score in school history with a 49.725. The Gators’ scores were so good that they actually had to drop Claire Boyce’s 9.900 in the event.

Bridget Sloan came as close as possible to a perfect 10 on bars, tying her career-best with a 9.975 in the event. It remains the only event in which Sloan has not scored a 10.

In total, Florida’s 198.125 is the nation’s third highest score this season. Florida scored the highest in the country two weeks ago against Missouri.

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Rhonda Faehn said the entire team was inspired by Spicer’s mother and the sea of pink in the crowd.

“I said to the girls at the end of the meet, I said ‘We all did this for Mickie and for everyone else out there who’s battling breast cancer,’” she said.

A scary moment occurred during the third rotation when Kentucky’s Shelby Hilton hit her head while performing a flip during her floor routine. The senior crouched for a moment before collapsing back to the mat.

The meet was stopped for nearly 15 minutes while the medical staff attended to her, and she was eventually taken off on a stretcher.

“It’s hard for everyone involved,” Faehn said. “We all know the risks and the dangers.”

The incident occurred right before Spicer’s beam routine, something that the senior said made her nervous.

But even after the delay, Spicer stepped up and delivered.

Just like she did all night.

Follow Graham Hack on Twitter @graham_hack24

Rachel Spicer and coach Rhonda Faehn point to Spicer's mom in the O'Connell Center crowd during Florida's win against Kentucky on Friday.

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