As the University of Florida Gators were crowned SEC champs and are preparing for the NCAA Championships coming up this Saturday, the top-ranked gymnastics team received more outstanding news.
The spotlight will now be on four gymnasts: Freshman Kytra Hunter, sophomores Mackenzie Caquatto and Alaina Johnson and junior Marissa King have been named on the 2012 All-Southeastern Conference team ballot.
The All-SEC first team contains gymnasts that were in the top three in the all-around event and each event winner. The second team is complied of No. 4-6 “all-arounders” and second place event winners.
In last Saturday’s SEC Championship meet in Duluth, Ga., Florida notched four titles scoring a 197.15 mark, earning first in three individual events.
“I think our team did amazing,” Caquatto said. “We went out there and did just what we do in practice. We had a few mistakes that we are back in the gym fixing right now, but I think overall we did a really good job and we handled the pressure really well.”
Hunter was named on the All-SEC first team as the freshman superstar claimed the all-around (39.625) and vault (9.975) titles. Hunter earned her collegiate-best vault score in the meet and becomes the sixth Gator to earn a nearly flawless mark on the event.
Hunter is the first Gator to win the SEC all-around title since former-Gator Kristen Guise accomplished the feat back in 1995 and the first Florida freshman to claim the crown since Elfi Schlegal did so in 1983. The last freshman to take the SEC all-around crown home was Georgia’s Katie Heenan back in 2005. Needless to say, Hunter ended many droughts in the all-around event for the Gators and for the SEC freshman.
“It’s an honor,” Hunter said. “It means a lot to me but I kind of just put it away after I won. I just come back into the gym and do the best I can and from watching video, improve on what I saw I made little mistakes on.”
Hunter was also on the 2012 SEC-All Freshman Team and was the sixth Gator to be named the SEC Freshman of the Year. This marks the third consecutive year the honor was presented to a Florida gymnast (Hunter-2012, Johnson-2011, Ashanee Dickerson-2010, Amanada Castillo-2007, Orley Szmuch-2002 and Betsy Hamm-1998). Hunter has won five times in the all-around events and leads the 2012 Florida squad with 19 event titles.
Johnson was also named on the All-SEC first team as the All-American notched a 9.925 on the uneven bars to claim the title. This marks the All-American’s fifth bars title of the season, 11th of her career, and her second consecutive year on the All-SEC first team.
Caquatto and King both earned spots on the All-SEC second team after Caquatto shared second on the uneven bars (9.90) and King shared second on the vault (9.925).
“That’s a really big accomplishment to me,” Caquatto. “I’ve never been named to a SEC team before so I’m just really glad that all my hard work in the gym has paid off.”
This marks the fifth time Caquatto has posted a 9.90 or above on the bars this season while King’s vault score was the All-American’s season-best mark. King was also fourth in the all-around with a 39.425. This is King’s third consecutive year on the All-SEC second team.
Florida coach Rhonda Faehn shared the SEC Coach of the Year accolade with Auburn’s Jeff Graba. It’s Faehn’s third consecutive coaching honor and fifth since the 2006 season. The Gators’ SEC Championship is the third for Faehn in her 10 seasons as the coach of the University of Florida Gators gymnastics team.
“I never really look at the individual honors,” Faehn said. “I was just really excited for our program and for our team and for the University of Florida to bring another SEC trophy back home to Gainesville.”
The top-ranked Florida Gators are now headed to Raleigh, N.C. Saturday, April 7 for the NCAA Regionals. The teams who finish in the top two will move onto the NCAA Championships in Duluth, Ga. on April 20-22 in The Arena at Gwinnett Center.
2012 SEC Gymnastics Awards
SEC Gymnast of the Year: Jaime Pisani, Arkansas
SEC Freshman of the Year: Kytra Hunter, Florida
SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year: Kim Jacob, Alabama
Laura Lane, Auburn
SEC Co-Coach of the Year: Rhonda Faehn, Florida
Jeff Graba, Auburn
2012 All-SEC Gymnastics Teams
First Team Second Team Freshman All-SEC
Kytra Hunter Florida Mackenzie Caquatto Florida Kytra Hunter Florida
Alaina Johnson Florida Marissa King Florida Rheagan Courville LSU
Jaime Pisani Arkansas Geralen Stack-Eaton Alabama Lloiminica Hall LSU
Rheagan Courville LSU Ashley Priess Alabama Jessie Jordan LSU
Lloiminica Hall LSU Bri Guy Auburn
Kat Ding Georgia
Jessie Jordan LSU
Ashley Lee LSU
Gator Country reporter Elizabeth Rhodes can be reached at email@example.com.