Time for Vettel to rant. When the Gainesville Sun Publisher John Fitzwater created the all-sports trophy after the SEC office dropped it, he got part of the scoring system from a homeless man who thought he was Daniel Boone. Well, maybe not, but they did put in an absurd scoring system in which the average of your conference finishes rather than your total points earned. This system rewards schools that choose not to compete in sports sanctioned by the SEC.
This rant comes in the gymnastics category because Tennessee does not have a team and Florida has a great one. Rhonda Faehn has done a sensational job as she enters her third year and Florida has a great shot to return to the Super Six and compete for the National Title. But, since Tennessee chooses not to have a team, whatever Florida accomplishes in gymnastics is minimized by this idiotic scoring system.
The biggest gap between Florida and Tennessee in the Vols favor last year was in softball where Tennessee was tops in the SEC while Florida fished sixth overall. It will be an interesting year for Coach Karen Johns' team which will be without last year's top pitcher, Jenny Gladding. Florida did play a lot of games last year after Gladding suffered a season-ending injury, so they've been there. But the key to improvement in the league standing will probably be at the plate where Florida needs to produce more runs.
Track and Field
Tom Jones just quietly goes about his business of having a superb team just about every year. The Gators were at their best indoors last year and I know they want to be better (healthier) in the outdoor season in 2005. Florida finished fifth in the SEC Outdoors AND the NCAA outdoors so a higher SEC finish could well be in the cards. It is nice they can start with the nation's best power-thrower, Candice Scott, who wins SEC and NCAA titles every year. Scott is part of an incredible "throws" group that will pile on the points. Add in Tiandra Ponteen, the SEC Indoor freshman runner of the year and you have the building blocks for excellence.
Another place where Tennessee topped Florida last year was on the golf course where the Lady Gators' fifth place finish was one worse than the Vols. With a strong freshman class, Coach Jill Briles-Hinton may have her most talented team, although it lacks collegiate experience.
After a disappointing second-round exit from the NCAA Tournament, you know Roland Thornqvist's team will be hungry in 2005. However the unexpected departure of Florida's top player, Alexis Gordon, has to hurt. The Gators were four slots better than the Vols in the SEC last year and duplicating that might be tough.
Swimming and Diving
Depending on how you look at it Florida has a huge advantage over the Vols here, or there is minimal difference. At last year's SEC Championship meet, Florida was third and Tennessee fourth. Not much of a difference, right? Well as Lee Corso might say, "Not so fast my friend." Florida scored 680 points in the meet, to Tennessee's 264. That's an astronomical difference, but only good for one place in the standings. Maybe Florida can finish two slots higher in '05, but not likely much more than that.
So there's the outlook for the spring and the battle lines are drawn between Florid and Tennessee for the top spot in the SEC All-Sports standings with Georgia not out of the picture. To me, the keys for the Gators will be improvement in softball and golf plus a strong performance at the outdoor track meet. Of course if the standings were based on EVERY team's performance, Tennessee would have no shot and it would likely come down to Florida and Georgia.
Great Gator Weekend Upcoming
Friday night the gymnastics team will host the Super Six - pre-season version - in the O'Dome. It's a great event and will showcase many of the top gymnasts and teams around the country. If you were to ever take in a meet of such magnitude, take in this one. There's non-stop activity since four of the six teams are competing at all times. It can be a bit confusing, so I suggest watching the Gators during all of their rotations and pick your favorite apparatus to watch the rest of the time.
Sunday, Carolyn Peck's basketball team will have its SEC home opener against Auburn. A quick start in league play is a must with the competition for post-season opportunities so fierce.
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Have a great week.