GYMNASTICS: #3 Gators Hammer #2 Utah

This was the gymnastics equivalent of a blowout Friday night as Coach Rhonda Faehn's third-ranked Florida Gators knocked off second-ranked Utah, 197.325-196.675, before a crowd of 2,883 at the O'Connell Center. It was almost like going into the fourth quarter of a football game with a five touchdown lead because by the time the final rotation rolled around, the Gators had an almost insurmountable lead. Florida could have made it through the floor exercises on auto-pilot.

"That's a wonderful place to be in and that's what we strive for every time," said Faehn, whose team is hitting its peak the week before the Southeastern Conference meet in Birmingham. "We want to be so aggressive on every event going in so that when we get to floor there isn't necessarily that added pressure of having to hit and get our high scores just to win a meet. I'm just so proud of the way we competed tonight. We feel like we're peaking at the right time heading into the SEC so we're real happy about that."

Florida won three of the four rotations Friday night, outscoring Utah on the vault (49.325-49.200), beam (49.300-49.200) and floor (49.500-48.975). Utah's only winning performance was on the bars (49.300-42.250).

It was just the kind of performance that sends the Gators into the SEC meet with the kind of momentum they will need to go against the best competition in the country. The SEC is home to four of the nation's top eight teams including number one Georgia and number five Alabama. After the SEC meet the Gators will participate in the NCAA regionals and then the nationals.

"It's exactly what we were hoping for," said Faehn, whose team improved to 15-2. "We were building and building and building. This was the last experience and confidence booster for our athletes heading into the championship part of our season and we came away not only with our highest score and our best performance of the year but we beat Utah which is ranked second and a national powerhouse and has many titles in their history."

Florida got off to a tremendous start on the vault with sophomores Ashley Reed and Tiffany Murry scoring 9.90s to help the Gators overcome a 9.925 by Utah's Ashley Postell, who won the all-around title with a 39.650. Postell turned in another 9.925 on the bars to help Utah stay close at the halfway point.

While the Gators were turning in a solid 49.300 on the balance beam, led by Samantha Lutz's career-best 9.925, Utah faltered on the floor exercises. The Utes had to eat a couple of sub-9.800 scores and their 48.975 score left them trailing the Gators by a decisive margin.

With all the pressure off, the Gators turned it on during the floor exercises to pad their lead. The Gators 49.450 was highlighted by a 9.95 by sophomore Nicola Willis and a 9.925 for freshman Corey Hartung. This was the sixth time this season that Hartung has exceeded a 9.90 on the floor exercises.

"We just wanted to come in here and be consistent and hit all our routines and that's just what we did," said Lutz, a junior who is pain free this season. Last season Lutz had a back injury that drastically limited her performances over the final two months of the season.

"With the SECs coming up so quickly next weekend we want to keep everything rolling and we're starting to peak now," said Lutz. "This meet was a big step for us as far as the total package in our performances."

Fightin Gators Top Stories