Great Gymnastics Season Ends With a Thud

For most teams an SEC Championship and top five NCAA finish would be cause for celebration. But the Florida gymnastics squad is not like most teams. The Gators had a legit chance to win the NCAA this year, and do it in front of their home crowd. Instead the Gators got off to horrible starts both nights and had to settle for fifth place at the NCAA meet in Gainesville Friday night.

Florida had become an excellent team on the uneven bars, but in both Thursday's semi-finals and Friday's Super Six Championship that had major falls and a series of significant wobbles that put them way behind. In fact, Florida bars score of 49.125 was the lowest of the six teams in the finals.

The Gators also scored uncharacteristically low scores on the beam (49.200) and vault (49.250). An extra tenth or two in each rotation would have placed the Gators much higher in the final standings. To its credit the team finished the night in style with a 49.425 on floor, led by Ashanee Dickerson's 9.95. It gave the Gator fans in the crowd something to smile about on their way home.

Even at its best Florida would have been hard pressed to top UCLA which had an almost flawless night in front of a disappointing (and disappointed) crowd of 5,386. The Bruins entered the NCAA meet as the No. 1 seed and lived up to it in posting a winning score of 197.725, almost half a point ahead of second place Oklahoma. The gap was much closer after that with Oklahoma, Alabama, Stanford and Florida all within 0.250 of each other. The little things can make such a difference in gymnastics.

While the team is understandably upset with the fifth place finish, any season that includes an SEC Title should be considered a great one. It's the fifth straight top five finish for Coach Rhonda Faehn and her program and included their second SEC title in the last four seasons.

The future also looks extremely bright for the Gator team. Florida has a chance to be significantly better next year. Faehn and her staff may have put together the nation's top recruiting class for the second year in a row. That incoming talent should be able to replace what the Gators lose from a solid senior class.

The Gator gymnastics team indeed had a great season, but to win the NCAA Title you have to save your best for last. Unfortunately that didn't happen.


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