The No. 4 Florida Gymnastics team (7-1, 3-1 in Southeaster Conference play) was on fire Friday night in the Gators Link to Pink meet scoring the nation’s season-best total and defeating No. 14 LSU (2-7, 2-3 SEC) 197.85- 196.85. The Gators now lead the all-time series rivalry 60-30.
“Great team score,” junior All-American Marissa King said. “It’s nice to come away with that and know we still have more improvements so it could be even higher potentially.”
In the Sixth Annual Gators Link to Pink, Florida claimed a winner in all four of the events with junior All-American Ashanee Dickerson winning the all-around.
“It was great because I made a few mistakes last week,” Dickerson said. “I was a little disappointed in myself so I went in the gym and worked hard on the landings and mistakes that were made and just went out there and showed everyone what I do.”
While the Tigers had their season-best overall score against the Gators, Florida broke its previous season-best record and national top spot that came the last time the Gators were in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Jan. 27.
The 8,112 fan — the seventh largest in school history — came out to the O’Connell Center Friday night not only to support Florida, but to also support the breast cancer awareness and prevention cause.
“The team did great,” King said. “Great score again with yet more improvements. We really focused on landings this week, which we definitely improved on from our last meet against Alabama. It was a lot of fun and for a great cause too.”
Dickerson was crowned all-around champion as the All-American matched Florida’s season-best total of 39.60 for her 12th all-around career victory.
“She is just so calm,” Faehn said. “She worked really hard this week, especially on her landings and her polish, and I think that it was wonderful to see that in her performance tonight. She is just continuing to get better.”
LSU’s Hall was second at 39.45 while King and LSU’s Courville placed third at 39.40.
The Gators were on the vault for the first rotation scoring a 49.400 for the first event. Sophomore All-American Alaina Johnson proved to be an early leader for Florida as she scored a 9.950 on the event to claim her first vault title of the season. Johnson’s vault victory marked her collegiate best score and her sixth vault title of her career.
“Starting on vault of course Alaina’s was really out of this world,” Faehn said. “Really, really nice and just so much cleaner again with the finishes. I think we started off really strong there and then carried it over on bars.”
LSU’s first rotation was on the bars as the Tigers scored a 49.150 with sophomore Sarie Morrison earning their highest mark on the event, 9.875.
For the second rotation, the two SEC rivals switched their events with UF on bars and LSU on vault. Florida exploded on the bars as four Gators took home the title of the bars event. As the Gators scored a 49.475 on the event, Mackenzie Caquatto, Dickerson, Johnson and King each earned a 9.900. The bar win was the third consecutive for Caquatto, first for Dickerson, third of the season for Johnson, and second for King. LSU scored a 49.300 on the vault event with freshman Rheagan Courville leading the Tigers with a 9.925. Johnson was the only gymnast to claim two events on the night.
“Five of the six athletes stuck their dismount on bars,” Faehn said. “Which is really, really great and then on beam again aggressive. All of our six athletes hit really great routines.”
Going into the third rotation the Gators had an overall total of 98.875 while the Tigers registered a 98.450. Florida was on the beam for the third event while LSU was performing on the floor. Freshman Kytra Hunter claimed the balance beam event with a 9.925 to take her second beam win of the season. LSU’s Courville shared the beam win with Hunter. Florida scored a 49.350 on the beam and LSU scored a 49.000 on the floor with freshman Lloimincia Hall leading the Tigers on the event with a score of 9.900.
Heading into the fourth and final rotation, the Gators recorded a 148.225 and the Tigers registered a 147.450 overall score. The floor scores were exceptional as they kept increasing with every performance. Senior Amy Ferguson started off Florida strong with a 9.875 and then junior Randy Stageberg then took the floor scoring a collegiate-best 9.900.
“I was really thrilled with Randy, really thrilled with Randy,” Faehn said. “That was one of the best floor routines I have ever seen her do. She worked extremely hard. It’s really great to be able to see her go out and nail a great routine.”
King followed earning a season-high 9.925 and then Dickerson scored a collegiate-best 9.950. Hunter finished the meet for the Gators scoring her collegiate-best floor mark of 9.975 for her fourth win in the event. Hunter’s score dubs her the first freshman Gator– and the fifth in school history – to earn a 9.975 mark.
“Each of us just go out and try to perform and try to do our best for the team,” Stageberg said. “We are all behind each other 100% so no matter what role you are in, it’s just a matter of doing your best at it.”
The Gators swept the floor event with Dickerson coming in second and King finishing in third. Florida leads the nation on the floor event total as they earned a 49.625 against the Tigers.
“It was really nice, we worked really hard all week on making those improvements from last week on our finishes, our landings, trying to get more stuck landings but also showing more control and more polish with our finishes,” Faehn said. “I really think that showed through tonight.”
The meet will air on ESPNU at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 16. It will also air on ESPN2 at 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 19. Florida travels to Auburn territory next Friday, Feb. 17. The meet begins at 8 p.m. and airs on the CSS network at 1 p.m. on Feb. 26.
No. 4 Florida versus No. 14 LSU
Feb. 10, 2012 ● Stephen C. O’Connell Center
Team Vault Bars Beam Floor Total
Florida 49.400 49.475 49.350 49.625 197.850
LSU 49.300 49.150 49.350 49.050 196.850
Gator Country reporter Elizabeth Rhodes can be reached at email@example.com.