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Tuesday, March 05, 2024
<p>Kytra Hunter performs on the uneven parallel bars during Florida's win against Missouri on Feb. 13.</p>

Kytra Hunter performs on the uneven parallel bars during Florida's win against Missouri on Feb. 13.

For Gator gymnastics fans, tonight marks the end of an era.

As No. 2 Florida (6-3, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) takes on Texas Woman’s University (5-10) in the O’Connell Center at 6:45 p.m., the four-person senior class that brought back-to-back national titles to Gainesville will compete in front of its home fans for the final time.

And while the entire class is deserving of praise, no one will leave a bigger void than Kytra Hunter.

"She’s irreplaceable," coach Rhonda Faehn said. "She’s incredible, she’s just been like a pillar of strength.

"Every single season she hasn’t wavered, she has just been someone who can be counted on and relied on and has just been very stable and those athletes are extremely hard to come by."

Hunter said she is treating tonight the same as she would any other meet to avoid distractions — an attitude that epitomizes her approach throughout her career. But after the meet, she said she would let her emotions out.

She is using the same mindset when it comes to reflecting on her accomplishments at Florida.

"Once I’m done with (the) season then I’ll be able to relax and think about all of my journey, … just every success that I’ve had," Hunter said.

With all of her successes, it may take her awhile.

As a freshman, Hunter was the Honda Award winner as the best collegiate gymnast, was crowned the 2012 NCAA vault champion and became the first Gator to win the NCAA all-around title.

She was also only the fifth freshman to win multiple event titles in history and took home five NCAA All-America honors.

She came back a year later and was awarded four NCAA All-America honors while continuing her torrid pace with 32 routines of 9.9 or higher.

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She also led all competitors with a 9.975 on floor in the Super Six competition, helping lead Florida to its first ever national championship.

After two years with so much success, Hunter hadn’t left herself much room for improvement. But somehow she did improve in her junior season — the year of perfection.

Hunter led the nation by scoring six perfect 10s during the 2014 season — two on vault and four on floor. She also added two NCAA All-America honors en route to Florida’s second straight national title.

And now, as a senior, she has defied the trend of aging gymnasts dropping off late in their careers by continuing to be Florida’s best and most reliable performer week after week.

She was named the SEC Gymnast of the Week on Tuesday after a 39.75 all-around performance last week against Oklahoma. It is the eighth such honor of her career and the third of her senior season.

After giving so much to the program, Hunter said it will be strange to not be a part of meetings and practices daily, but to instead be one of the former Gators on the walls.

"It is going to be weird," she said. "Looking at the girls on the wall now, I’m going to be in their shoes. I can’t imagine what they’re feeling."

But she doesn’t have time to think about it yet — she has a few more accomplishments ahead to add to that long resume.

 Follow Graham Hack on Twitter @graham_hack24

Kytra Hunter performs on the uneven parallel bars during Florida's win against Missouri on Feb. 13.

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