Winning a third-straight national title on Saturday night was by far the highlight of the UF gymnastics team’s season. During a year of ups and downs, here are five moments that stood out above the rest:
Rachel Spicer’s special night against Kentucky at Link to Pink event. On a night when gymnastics came second on the priority list, the sport helped capture the essence of the human spirit. On Feb. 27 at Florida’s Link to Pink event — designed for breast cancer awareness — Rachel Spicer’s mother attended her first gymnastics meet since being diagnosed with breast cancer a month prior. Her daughter put on a show for her, scoring a season-best 9.925 on floor and tying a season-best on vault and what was then tied for a season-best on beam with two 9.875s against Kentucky. After her floor routine, Spicer pointed up at her mother and blew a kiss as her mother pointed back. It was an emotional moment and by far the best of the year.
Bridget Sloan’s back-to-back perfect 10s on bars. If you started watching Gator gymnastics from senior night forward, you would have never known junior Bridget Sloan had missed half of the season with a sprained ankle. After being reinserted into the bars lineup on Feb. 20 and scoring a 9.900 and two 9.975s in the next three weeks, the 2008 Olympian finally broke through on senior night, scoring the first perfect 10 on bars of her career against Texas Woman’s University. The perfect mark gave her a 10 in all four events for her career. She then followed that up the next week with another perfect 10 on bars in the Southeastern Conference Championships — the first ever 10 by a Gator in the competition and the first perfect mark on bars in the competition’s history.
Kytra Hunter wins floor title in final collegiate competition. Kytra Hunter had a senior season she could have only dreamed of, winning SEC Gymnast of the Year, the NCAA all-around title and a third-consecutive national title. But she went out with one last bang Sunday — a 9.9625 on floor in the individual event finals to capture her first ever NCAA floor title. Teammates and competitors alike congratulated her as she walked off the floor for the final time as a Gator.
Alex McMurtry scores perfect 10 in only her second collegiate meet. Right from the start, Alex McMurtry let everyone know she was about to have a special freshman season. In just the second meet of her career and her debut in the O’Connell Center on Jan. 16, McMurtry scored a perfect 10 on vault against Auburn, making her the quickest gymnast to record a perfect 10 in school history. It would lead the way for a year in which the freshman led the nation on vault with a 9.960 Regional Qualifying Score during the regular season.
Ericha Fassbender wins all-around against Arkansas. Freshman Ericha Fassbender only had one opportunity to compete for an all-around title this season. She made the most of it. On the road at Arkansas, Fassbender took home the all-around title with a 39.375, including a 9.850 bars performance in freshman’s first competitive routine in the event that season. The Gators were without Sloan and freshman Kennedy Baker that night, and McMurtry and Hunter had less-than-stellar performances, but Fassbender’s performance carried Florida to victory.
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 Feb. 27