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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Coach Rhonda Faehn looking for passion from gymnasts as UF looks toward NCAAs

<p>Freshman Ericha Fassbender steps back onto the balance beam after falling during the Southeastern Conference Championships on March 21 in Duluth, Georgia.</p>

Freshman Ericha Fassbender steps back onto the balance beam after falling during the Southeastern Conference Championships on March 21 in Duluth, Georgia.

After Saturday night’s beam debacle for the Florida gymnastics team, coach Rhonda Faehn wants to see more fight from everyone.

Although the Gators won each of the evening’s other three events, Florida essentially coughed up the conference title after suffering two falls and a touch on beam during the Southeastern Conference Championships.

As the team’s control of the meet slowly slipped away with its shrinking composure, the gymnasts’ demeanor turned from positive to stunned — a deer-in-the-headlights look.

Although the situation was difficult to deal with, Faehn said she didn’t see enough fire from her team when things got tough.

Now, for the next two weeks before Florida takes the competition floor in Morgantown, West Virginia, for its NCAA Regional, Faehn is searching for that resolve in her gymnasts.

"What I am going to be challenging the athletes (about) heading into the regional championship is ‘who is showing the most fire?’" Faehn said. "Who is showing the most passion? Who is fighting for every little, tiny thing?

"And it’s gonna be those athletes who are earning those spots in the lineup positions because those are the athletes that will go down with the biggest fight. It’s gonna be an important two weeks."

Even though Florida won’t have another highly pressurized situation until the next competition, Faehn said she plans on throwing the kitchen sink at each gymnast during the team’s training days to make them all as nervous as possible.

By the time the Gators compete again, she hopes nothing they face is as daunting as training.

While beam is the obvious event in which changes are likely, Faehn said floor is also being evaluated based on how each gymnast responds to the training.

No position in any lineup is safe.

"I don’t wanna ever say lineups are set, because you have to prove yourself day in and day out," Faehn said. "...But for sure, there’s gonna be some adjustments on beam and, potentially, floor."

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Faehn said she believes the team’s confidence is unshaken, and she expects them to respond well to any changes she poses to them.

But nevertheless, those adjustments will be the most important decisions Faehn has made all season.

She knows how crucial getting them right will be for fixing the issues before it’s too late.

"We don’t want this to happen to us at the national championship, where it has happened to teams in the past," Faehn said, "where you feel like you have a championship and you lose it just that quickly — in the blink of an eye."

 Follow Graham Hack on Twitter @graham_hack24

Freshman Ericha Fassbender steps back onto the balance beam after falling during the Southeastern Conference Championships on March 21 in Duluth, Georgia.

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