The No.T3 Florida gymnastics (2-1, 1-1 SEC) squad had much to celebrate after hitting its season-high total score and a perfect mark Friday evening against the Missouri Tigers (1-2, 0-2 SEC) in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. As the Gators defeated the Tigers 197.30-194.625 in front of nearly 6,000 people, junior All-American Mackenzie Caquatto’s flawless 10.0 uneven bars routine was flashing over and over again through everyone’s mind.
“It’s really amazing because Macko is such a huge talent,” Florida head coach Rhonda Faehn said. “It was almost excruciatingly painful as a coach to watch her with her frustrations and her struggle with her injuries that were significant and knowing that she’s capable of so much more. I think it’s going to continue to help motivate her and give her confidence.”
The Gators took home all the titles against Mizzou: Senior All-American Ashanée Dickerson won the vault (9.975), floor (9.90) and all-around (39.575) while Caquatto won the bars with a perfect 10.0 and freshman Bridget Sloan took home the balance beam at 9.90. Dickerson posted her collegiate-best score on the vault. Sophomore Kytra Hunter placed third on the vault with a 9.875.
Florida’s uneven bars total of 49.60 matches the fifth-highest total in the Gators history. All-Americans sophomore Kytra Hunter and junior Alaina Johnson wrapped up the top three as Hunter’s collegiate-best 9.925 came in second and Alaina Johnson’s 9.95 came in third. Caquatto is the fifth Florida Gator to earn the perfect score on bars and the first since All-American Melanie Sinclair posted her third 10.0 in 2009.
“That was a really great feeling,” Caquatto said about her flawless performance. “I was actually surprised. When I stuck the dismount, I knew it was one of the best routines I did and was happy I could contribute to the team. It was a good moment and I will never forget it.”
Sloan’s beam title was a collegiate first for the freshman as she notched a season-high mark of 9.90. Even after a slip-up on bars the freshman showed no signs of being a rookie as composure and maturity took over. Sloan said words of encouragement from coach Rhonda Faehn helped her focus on her next event without holding back or getting discouraged.
“It was nice to have Rhonda’s assurance that things do happen, but making that comeback is really what it is all about and not letting your whole meet fall apart,” Sloan said.
Caquatto and Dickerson were right behind Sloan with scores of 9.85 to share second in the final beam standings.
Dickerson anchored Florida’s floor event with a 9.90 to earn her first floor win of the season and 15th of her career. Dickerson’s three wins helped her climb on the ladder on Florida’s all-time career list titles.
“It was a lot of fun,” Dickerson said. “I heard the crowd and they were really loud and that just made me want to dance even more. Having Bridget (Sloan) in the corner with me dancing just helps me for my first pass and then seeing my teammates and the rest of the crowd going crazy is just exciting.”
The senior has now won 63 event titles, which is fifth on Florida’s all-time career list. Johnson was second on floor at 9.875 and senior All-America Marissa King took third at 9.85.
“Tonight was really exciting,” Caquatto said. “I think it all started from warm-ups because the whole team had a ton of energy. Everyone was goofing around and staying positive, which helped with the nerves. Through the meet we kept up the energy. I think it helped everyone on everything and this was our best meet of the season.”
The Gators are back in the O’Connell Center at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25 for their meet against the No. 24 Auburn Tigers. It’s Florida’s popular Link to Pink meet that helps raise breast cancer awareness. Florida’s Link to Pink meet will air at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 31 on ESPNU and at 6 p.m. Feb. 3 on ESPN2.
Gator Country reporter Elizabeth Rhodes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.