It took the SEC’s best floor performance of the year for the top-ranked Florida(2-0) gymnastics team to defeat the fourth-ranked Auburn Tigers(1-2) Friday night 196.5- 196.25. The Gators posted 49.5 points to ease past the Tigers on the meet’s final rotation.
After the first two rotations of vault and uneven bars, the Gators seemed to be cruising once again against a top ten opponent. Leading by .7 going into the third rotation, which is the football equivalent of being up two touchdowns, the Gators had a disappointing performance on the balance beam highlighted by a fall and several miscues on the landings, allowing Auburn to make up ground and take a .175 point lead into the final rotation.
“We had a couple nerves and some stupid mistakes that cost us on the beam,” senior Corey Hartung said. “Coach Faehn kept telling us to fight for every tenth and that the beam was in that past and over with. So, we only had floor on our minds.”
Hartung blocked out everything but what she had to do on the floor and came through with a brilliant 9.95, tied for tops in the SEC this season. That final score helped her secure the all-around title for the night with a total score of 39.475, a season best and the 13th all-around of her career.
Two juniors also stepped up for the Gators on the floor as Melanie Sinclair and Maranda Smith nailed their routines and finished with scores of 9.875 and 9.90 respectively.
“I think the number one thing we learned from this competition was that we came back after beam and fought for the win,” Smith said. “We know how to do that now.”
It was a particularly good night for Smith, who performed her first vault for the Gators after transferring from UCLA. Since her last beam routine in competition, Smith has transferred to Florida and had a titanium rod surgically inserted into her shin. Her 9.9 on the vault got the Gators off to a good start.
“I wasn’t nervous at all, actually,” she said. “It’s been three years since I’ve done a competition vault so I just wanted to prove to myself I could do it again.”
Coach Rhonda Faehn was pleased with the victory, even though it was closer than she would’ve liked.
“Tonight was rough,” she said. “That was probably one of our roughest beam performances as a whole since I’ve been here.”
Faehn said that she was impressed by her team’s scores on the bars and floor exercise, commenting that those were some of the best she has ever seen. However, the mistakes on the balance beam set back what would have otherwise been a stellar team performance.
“I don’t want to make excuses, but this was on the toughest weeks training we’ve had in a while,” she said. “Rebekah Zaiser broke her foot this week and she had been our leadoff on the beam. It was tough on our team emotionally.”
Faehn did like how her team responded to the adversity at the end.
“It was a great learning experience, to put our athletes in a situation like that and to find out how they’re going to respond,” she said. “As for the mistakes, it’s a matter of going back into the gym and maybe tweak the lineup a bit.”
The Gators hit the road next Friday, traveling to Arkansas to face the fifth-ranked Razorbacks.