Gator gymnasts miss NCAA Super Six spot with fourth place finish in Semifinal

CLEVELAND, Ohio – A rough start on the No. 5 seeded Florida gymnastics team’s opening event played a major role in the Gators missing their sixth consecutive spot in the NCAA Super Six team final. Florida failed to advance after taking fourth in Session II of NCAA Gymnastics Championships’ semifinal competition held Friday at the Wolstein Center.

Alabama won semifinal II at 197.05. Nebraska (196.85) and Utah (196.20) also move ahead with top three finishes. Florida was a tenth away from a spot in the Super Six team final, taking fourth at 196.125. Oregon State (196.10) and Kent State (195.00) rounded out the Semifinal II results.

All three teams advancing from Semifinal II, will compete against the top three teams from Semifinal I (Oklahoma, Michigan and UCLA) on Saturday in the NCAA Super Six at 4 p.m. (ET) to crown the national champion.

Two falls on Florida’s opening event put the Gators in a difficult position. The Gators’ beam total of 48.125 is the lowest posted by UF on any event this season. Sophomore Ashanée Dickerson anchored the lineup with a team-high 9.775, while fellow sophomore Randy Stageberg earned a 9.75.

The Gators rebounded with a 49.45 on floor exercise – its second-highest floor total ever in NCAA Championships competition and the top floor total of the two sessions. Sophomore Marissa King led the Gators with a 9.925, while Maranda Smith and Alaina Johnson also posted marks of 9.90.

Steps on landings held the Gators vault total back to 49.25.

Florida’s final two vaulters – King and Johnson – led the Gators with 9.90s.

The Gators knew they needed an uneven bars set of better than 49.40 to gain one of the three advancing positions – a tough task as it was a total only met by the Gators three times during the course of the 2011 season. The Gators were close, but again, steps on landings kept the final score from that needed additional tenth. Johnson anchored the bar set with a team-high 9.90. Fellow freshman Mackenzie Caquatto turned in a 9.875.

This was a tough ending for a season with so much promise for the Gator gymnasts. The team held the No. 1 spot in the national rankings throughout the regular season and its team total of 197.725 at Georgia on Feb. 12 still is the nation’s highest turned in this year.  UF Head Coach Rhonda Faehn thought there were several lessons her young team can take from this difficult result.

“It was a big hole we dug and obviously very difficult to get out. We fought back. I thought we did amazing on floor. And then on vault, they just tried too hard for the landings. Same with the bar dismounts. They fought hard – we were so close,” Faehn said. “All in all, it is extremely disappointing because we know how talented this team is. But I told them talent doesn’t win championships – you’ve got to stay on the equipment. Unfortunately we didn’t do that tonight.

“They have to learn from this,” she continued. “You have to fight for every little thing because it’s never over until it’s over. You have to fight for every landing. We just have to have the confidence. Since they are so young, I think many of our mistakes were just trying too hard. There a lot of phenomenal teams that aren’t here in Cleveland and a lot of phenomenal teams in the past which did not advance to the Super Six. I told our team that they need to grow and get better from this.”

Florida will be represented in three of Sunday’s individual event finals. Johnson is in three finals – vault, bars and floor. She will be joined in the floor final by Smith and King. King also advances to her second-consecutive vault final. Competition begins at 1 p.m. on Sunday.