The No. 8 Florida gymnastics team (3-0, 1-0 SEC) took its third consecutive win of the season Friday night against SEC foe Kentucky (2-3, 0-2 SEC) with a season-best 196.275. The Gators took their first SEC meet of the season in the Memorial Coliseum where the Wildcats posted a 194.075 mark.
“I was thrilled,” said Florida head coach Rhonda Faehn said about her team’s performance. “I think they did a really great job right from the start on bars. They were aggressive and we were able to capitalize on so many stuck landings. We carried that momentum over to vault and all the way through. I thought we finished especially strong on beam.”
For the second time this season, Florida notched all top three spots in the all-around event. Freshman Kytra Hunter claimed the top spot with a personal best of 39.475 followed by juniors Ashanée Dickerson and Marissa King who tied for second at 39.125. .
Hunter left Lexington, Ky., Friday with four event titles, including taking home her third consecutive all-around win. The freshman’s all-around event winning streak makes her the first Gator since Dickerson in 2010 to open up her collegiate career with three straight all-around titles.
“I’m just really proud of her,” Faehn said. “She’s very strong mentally as a competitor and she has a lot of experience behind her. She was able to utilize her past experiences to stay focused and aggressive tonight. I think she’s getting more comfortable out there on the competition floor and it showed tonight.”
Initially, Hunter wasn’t in the lineup for the all-around but after freshman Rachel Spicer was forced to hold out on the event due to having issues with her calf, the three-time all-around event winner had to take her place on the floor.
“We weren’t going to put Kytra in on floor,” Faehn said. “But one of her teammates was a little sore so Kytra said she could go and just did an awesome job.”
Hunter went on to win her first vault event with a Florida-season best mark of 9.925. The Gators’ season-best vault total extended to an impressive 49.275 against the Wildcats as Florida’s top two event winners, Hunter and Dickerson, posted a 9.9 or better. Dickerson took second in the vault event, tying her season-high with a 9.90. Senior Nicole Ellis completed the Gators’ sweep in the event with a 9.85.
The freshman also tied for first with All-American Marissa King for the uneven bars title at 9.875 and claimed beams with a 9.85. The bars win was the first in Hunter’s career and the first for King since 2010. Sophomore All-American Alaina Johnson rounded up the top three in the bars event with a 9.85.
Hunter scored a personal best on the beams with a 9.85 mark while Johnson came in second at 9.775. Junior Randy Stageberg and Spicer both received marks of 9.75 to tie for third in the event.
King and Dickerson shared the crown for the floor exercise event as the two junior All-Americans both posted marks of 9.85. Hunter came in third with a 9.825 completing the Gators top-three sweep in every event.
“I was pleased with how they stayed aggressive and didn’t let anything affect their mind set,” Faehn said. “There were some really nice improvements from the last two competitions.”
The Gators will be back in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center hosting a quad meet at 7 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 27. The meet includes No. 3 Arkansas, No. 23 Maryland and Bridgeport. The meet will be aired on ESPNU and video of the event will be streaming live on GatorVision.
Gator Country reporter Elizabeth Rhodes can be reached at email@example.com.