Florida Gators Gymnastics Wins SEC Championship

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While the Florida basketball team was busy collapsing in their Elite Eight match up against Louisville, Rhonda Faehn's gymnastics team was doing the exact opposite. The Gators recovered from a slow start and stormed ahead of the rest of the conference to take home the 2012 SEC Gymnastics Championship Saturday afternoon at the Gwinnett Arena in Duluth, Georgia. Florida finished the meet with a score of 197.150, easily outdistancing Alabama's 196.775. Host Georgia finished third with 196.575.

The Gators were led by freshman sensation Kytra Hunter, who showed no signs of nerves in her first SEC Championship meet. Hunter won the individual all-around championship with a score of 39.625. She was also the vault champion with a score of 9.975 (two of the four judges gave her a perfect 10 score), finished second on the floor with a 9.9, second on the beam with a 9.875 and fifth on the bars with a 9.875. Hunter was also named SEC Freshman of the Year at the meet, based on a vote of all SEC coaches.

Junior Marissa King also had a strong meet for the Gators, finishing fourth in the all-around with a 39.425. King placed second in the vault and third in the beam.Sophomore Alaina Johnson finished just behind King, in fifth place in the all-around with a 39.400. Johnson was the SEC champion on the uneven bars, scoring a 9.925 to clinch the title for the Gators in the final rotation.

Junior Ashnee' Dickerson also competed in the all-around for the Gators, finishing fourth in the vault with a 9.9 and eleventh in the all-around with a 39.200. Sophomore Mackenzie Caquatto chipped in with a 9.9 on the bars, while junior Randy Stageberg scored a 9.875 on the floor. Senior Nicole Ellis helped out on the bars with a 9.875, and freshman Rachel Spicer added a 9.825 on the vault.Senior Amy Ferguson completed the slate of competing Gators gymnasts, scoring a 9.8 on the floor.

The Gators had a tough draw, opening on the beam, while the mostly UGA crowd made a huge racket cheering for the Bulldogs on the vault. The noise and possibly nerves seemed to get to the Gators, as they wobbled to a 49.050 on the event. The score turned out to be the highest team score on the beam (tied with UGA), but it was the Gators' third lowest beam score of the season and put the Gators in third place behind Alabama, who opened with a stellar 49.275 on the bars and UGA, who opened with a 49.175 on vault.

But Florida battled back with a 49.200 on the floor before exploding on the vault with a 49.525, the Gators' second highest score on the event this season and its highest ever at the SEC Championship meet. The vault rotation put the Gators ahead for good, before finishing strong on the bars, earning a meet high 49.375 on the event.

Coach Faehn was honored as SEC Co-Coach of Year during the awards ceremony and SEC Commissioner Mike Slive was on hand to deliver the championship trophy to the Gators. The NCAA Championships will be held at the same venue April 20-22, but the No.1 ranked Gators must first prepare for the NCAA Regionals in two weeks (site is still to be determined). After watching this meet today, I really have a good feeling about this team and its ability to handle the pressure of competing for its first ever national title.

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