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Wednesday, February 28, 2024
<p>Rhonda Faehn watches her teammates compete during Florida's win against Georgia on Jan. 30.</p>

Rhonda Faehn watches her teammates compete during Florida's win against Georgia on Jan. 30.

For the first time in collegiate gymnastics history, co-defending champions met during the regular season. They didn’t disappoint.

No. 1 Oklahoma (12-0) defeated No. 3 Florida (6-3) 198.500-198.100 Friday night with the nation’s best performance of the year.

The Sooners posted two rotations with a 49.725 or higher and had no gymnast score lower than a 9.825.

Senior Erica Brewer scored a perfect 10 on beam and junior Haley Scaman added a 10 of her own on floor.

Despite the loss, the Gators had their best road meet of the season by far, scoring 0.675 higher than their previous best against LSU two weeks ago. It was also the second best road score in the nation this season.

“I really feel like we’re starting to put it together,” coach Rhonda Faehn said. “I really thought we did an amazing job and this is going to be a great road score to add to our RQS (Regional Qualifying Score), and not only that, but it gives our athletes even more confidence as we head into getting ready for our last home meet and then SECs.”

Through the first two rotations, Florida was able to match Oklahoma’s red-hot start.

Bridget Sloan scored her second-consecutive 9.975 on bars, and Alex McMurtry added a 9.975 of her own on vault to help give Florida a slim 99.100-99.025 lead heading into the third rotation.

But from there, Oklahoma pulled away as Florida’s gymnasts struggled to keep pace with the exceptional level of execution - though they still posted solid scores of 49.475 on floor and 49.525 on beam.

“On floor we weren’t quite as crisp as normal in a few areas,” Faehn said. “We left just a few tenths on the floor, and at the same time Oklahoma was on beam and there wasn’t one error.”

“And on beam to finish up, I thought we did a really good job. We want to clean up a few of our little landings here and there, but overall I thought we did awesome.”

One of those on beam was Sloan, who scored a 9.925 in her first time competing in the event all season. She has scored no worse than a 9.9 since her return from a high ankle sprain that sidelined her for nearly six weeks.

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Kytra Hunter was the only all-around performer of the night, tying her season-high with a 39.750.

Florida has one final regular season meet remaining - a home meet against Texas Women’s University - before the SEC Championships.

But Friday was a taste of what the postseason will be like, and Faehn said the experience was invaluable.

“I think it’s incredibly important for our athletes to be in this environment and the situation and be competing against everyone who will be challenging for the national title,” she said.

Follow Graham Hack on Twitter @graham_hack24

Rhonda Faehn watches her teammates compete during Florida's win against Georgia on Jan. 30.

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