No. 1 Florida gymnastics second at NCAA North Central Regional

DENVER, Colo. –The slenderest of margins gave the No. 1 University of Florida gymnastics team the NCAA North Central Regional second qualifying spot for the NCAA Championships. The Gators turned in a 196.425, just edging No. 18 Boise State (196.40) by 0.025 for the second advancing position. No. 12 Arkansas won its second regional title at 196.55.

Other team results Saturday included No. 19 Denver (195.625), No. 20 Arizona (195.40) and No. 27 BYU (194.65). The NCAA North Central Region Championships was held Saturday in front of a Magness Arena crowd of 2,756.

The two Southeastern Conference teams both advance to the NCAA Championships, set for April 15-17 in the Wolstein Center in Cleveland, Ohio. It will be Florida’s 29th NCAA Championship appearance in the meet’s 30-year history.

All No. 1 seeds in each of the six regional sites opened competition Saturday on floor exercise. The Gators received strong scores, but a step out of bounds kept Florida’s floor score back to 49.225. Florida was led by a pair of 9.90 marks from freshman Alaina Johnson and sophomore Marissa King, which tied for second overall. A pair of 9.85s came from senior Maranda Smith and sophomore Randy Stageberg.

Johnson again shared the Gators’ high mark of 9.90 on the next event, vault. Sophomore Ashanée Dickerson also posted a 9.90 as they shared first on the event with Arkansas’ Katherine Grable. For Dickerson, it was her ninth mark of 9.90 or better on vault this season, while it was the sixth such mark for Johnson. King and Smith turned in marks of 9.85 as UF posted a 49.30 on vault.

Three marks of 9.90 or better helped the Gators post a season-best 49.475 on the uneven bars. Freshman Mackenzie Caquatto picked up her fourth bar win with a collegiate-best 9.95, while Johnson was second at 9.925. Dickerson equaled her collegiate-best of 9.90 for the second time this season to share third overall.

The next event didn’t go nearly as well, as the Gators were forced to count a fall toward its team total of 48.425. Caquatto again led Florida on the event, as she shared fourth overall at 9.85.

Next up, the Gators await Monday’s announcement by the NCAA of its competitive rotation for April 15 semifinal action. The National Qualifying Score (NQS) determines the pairings for day one of the team competition at the NCAA Championships. The NQS is calculated by adding a team’s regional qualifying score (RQS) and score from the regional meet. Teams will be ranked 1 to 12 based on the NQS. Teams 1, 4, 5, 8, 9 and 12 will be placed in the evening session on April 15 and teams 2, 3, 6, 7, 10 and 11 placed in the afternoon session. Florida enters as the No. 5 seed.