The Gators got off to a poor start Friday night with average performances on the uneven bars and balance beam that left their championship dreams on the floor of Stegemann Coliseum in Athens, Georgia. Not only did the Gators come up short against their arch rivals from Georgia, they also had to watch as Utah and Stanford post strong final rotation scores to pass Florida on the final tally. Still it was an outstanding season for the Gators.
Coach Rhonda Faehn has led Florida to the top ten in all six of her seasons in Gainesville. This year marks the third straight top four finish for the Gators. Find me another Gator team that has finished in the NCAA top four in each of the last three years. You can't. There's nothing wrong with the drive to win the NCAA Title. It fuels the passion of Gator coaches from Faehn and Mary Wise to Urban Meyer and Billy Donovan. Sometimes the titles come, and sometimes they don't. But any season that ends up in the top four nationally is a great season.
Florida came within a misstep or two of repeating as SEC Champions. They won the NCAA Regional in Gainesville and their semi-final session at the NCAA meet. Five Gators earned first-team All-American honors. The Gators have made gymnastics meets a happening again and crowds continue to grow meet after meet.
The future looks awfully bright for the program as well. The Gators will say goodbye to seniors Ashley Reed, Tiffany Murry and Nicola Willis, all of whom earned All American recognition in their Gator careers. Still Florida will return plenty of talent, led by Melanie Sinclair, Amanda Castillo and Corey Hartung. Some gymnasts on the roster will have to step up and do more next season, and they'll be challenged by a strong three member freshman class that should strengthen the Gators' trouble spots on bars and beam.
Florida gymnastics has a long history of success, but the program had faded in the years prior to Faehn's arrival. It speaks volumes that she has raised the team to perennial national contenders in just a few years. Don't look for that to change any time soon.
Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel
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