Gym Gators open season today

The No. 3 Florida Gators kick off the season at North Carolina State today in the Reynolds Coliseum. This marks only the second time the Gators will begin their season on the Wolfpack’s campus in Raleigh, N.C in the program’s 40-year tenure. The dual meet will begin at 7 p.m., and this is the third consecutive season the Gators and the Wolfpack face each other in dual-meet action.

The Gators defeated both N.C. State and Penn State in Florida’s fifth annual Gators Link to Pink meet held in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Jan. 28, 2011. The Gators notched a 197.50 victory in front of an enormous fan crowd of 8,272 over the Nittany Lions who scored a 195.30 and the Wolfpack who received a 194.075.

The last time the Gators were in Raleigh, N.C., Florida pulled out a win outscoring the Wolfpack 195.475-194.45 on Feb. 5, 2010.

In 2011, Florida made its 29th appearance in the NCAA Championships, finishing seventh overall. The Gators also took second in both the 2011 Southeastern Conference and NCAA North Central Regional Championships. Junior Marissa King claimed the 2011 NCAA vault title becoming only the second Florida Gator to win the NCAA vault crown and the first Florida gymnast to win a NCAA individual title since 1998. The Gators return four gymnasts in 2011, including junior Ashanee Dickerson, sophomore Alaina Johnson, junior Marissa King and senior Elizabeth Mahlich who combine for a total of 15 All-America honors.

The Gators’ 16-member roster includes five freshmen, three of which joined the team for the 2012 spring semester. Freshman Kytra Hunter and Kiersten Wang trained with the Gators this fall while freshman Jamie Shisler and Brittany Arlington joined the Gators in January. Freshman Rachel Spicer committed to Florida in November and decided to graduate early in order to join the Gator Gymnastics program this spring season.

NC State claimed their highest team total in the NCAA Regional action last season since 1999 to take fourth in the 2011 NCAA Southeast Regionals with a 194.75. Current sophomore Stephanie Ouellette is expected to lead the Wolfpack this season after Ouellette advanced as a freshman to the NCAA Championships to compete as an individual all-arounder. The rookie placed 28th overall with a score of 38.775. The Wolfpack took sixth in 2011 East Atlantic Gymnastics League Championship.

The Wolfpack took the top spot in the East Atlantic Gymnastics League 2012 preseason poll claiming two first place votes while defending champion North Carolina placed second and West Virginia came in third. The last time NC State took the EAGL crown was in 2009.

Twenty one of the 24 routines performed in 2011 NCAA Championships’ team qualifying action for the Gators will reappear this season, while the Wolfpack also bring back 21 routines from the 2011 NCAA Southeast Regionals.

Gator Country reporter Elizabeth Rhodes can be reached at