UF’s Kytra Hunter earns SEC honor

Freshman Florida Gators gymnast Kytra Hunter was dubbed the Southeastern Conference Freshman Gymnast of the Week by the league office Tuesday. This is the third time the sensational freshman has earned this accolade as Hunter leads the 2012 Gator gymnastics team with 11 event titles.

“She has that star quality,” Florida coach Rhonda Faehn said. “Her sere power, her vault and her tumbling is just phenomenal, I would say the best in the country.”

In last Friday’s Link to Pink meet, then-No.4 Florida Gymnastics team (7-1, 3-1 SEC) scored the nation’s season-best total and defeated No. 14 LSU (2-7, 2-3 SEC) 197.85- 196.85. Hunter claimed the balance beam event with a 9.925 to take her second beam win of the season scored her collegiate-best floor mark of 9.975 for her fourth win in the event. Hunter’s nearly flawless score makes her the first freshman Gator– and the fifth in school history to earn a 9.975 mark. The freshman also finished third on the vault with a 9.90 mark.

Hunter has been named Freshman Gymnast of the Week for three out of the six possible weeks thus far into her collegiate career. She earned this honor for the first time on Jan. 20 at Kentucky when Hunter claimed four event titles including the vault (9.925), uneven bars (9.875), balance beam (9.85), and all-around (39.475). Hunter shared her uneven bars title with junior All-American Marissa King.

“She’s very strong mentally as a competitor and she has a lot of experience behind her,” Faehn said after UF’s meet at UK. “She was able to utilize her past experiences to stay focused and aggressive tonight. I think she’s getting more comfortable out there on the competition floor and it showed tonight.”

Just a week later, Hunter received the award for the second time after her stellar performance in the quad meet against then-No. T-1 Arkansas, Bridgeport and then-No. 24 Maryland. Hunter shared her floor title (9.95) with junior All-American Ashanée Dickerson, earned third in vault (9.85) and fifth in beam (9.85).

Hunter has been a shining start for the Gators since their first meet at NC State where she earned a pair of events, the all-around (39.30) and floor exercise (9.90). She became just the fourth Gator in the last 25 years to win the all-around in Florida’s season opener.

“I’m really proud of Kytra,” Faehn said after Florida’s season opener and Hunter’s superb collegiate opening performance. “She has a tremendous work ethic and is all business. It was really fun to see her get out there tonight and love performing.”

In GymInfo national rankings, Hunter is No. 22 in the all-around event with her season average of 39.230. She also holds No. 3 in floor (9.904) and No. 19 on vault (9.883).

No. 2 Florida travels to Auburn territory Friday, Feb. 17 for more SEC competition. The meet begins at 8 p.m. and airs on the CSS network at 1 p.m. on Feb. 26.

Gator Country reporter Elizabeth Rhodes can be reached at lizxxbeth@gators.ufl.edu.