Gators gymnastics preps for Tigers

The No. 3 Florida gymnastics team plays hosts to newly added SEC rival Missouri at 7 p.m. Friday evening. This marks the Tigers first time in the O’Connell Center as a conference competitor. The Gators lead the all-time series between the two schools 10-0. The meet will air at 9:30 a.m. on Sun Sports on Jan. 27.

Both teams are trying to bounce back after opening SEC losses as the Gators (1-1, 0-1 SEC) were edged, 196.875- 196.575, by then-No. 8 LSU last weekend in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

“We really had some great practices,” UF coach Rhonda Faehn said. “Sunday was very motivational and we studied our film footage and they were of course not thrilled with how we performed. They really, really trained aggressively. Their attitude is great and we are excited to be back in the O’Dome especially welcoming Missouri into the SEC conference.”

The Gators had a 0.25 lead heading into the final rotation, but a fall on the beam cost Florida the opportunity for victory. While LSU didn’t post scores that were as high as its first week on the floor, they were enough to surpass Florida for the win.

“Going forward it’s just the little things that can beat anyone and that’s what we learned,” sophomore Kytra Hunter said. “We could have counted a fall and still won but that would have meant it would have taken other things like more stuck landings on bars, beam, vault and floor. It was a fight until the end and we just needed to fight a little harder.”

Missouri (0-1, 0-1 SEC) opened up its conference meets by hosting No. 1 Alabama in the Hearnes Center last weekend where the Crimson Tide defeated the Tigers, 196.540-192.025. Alabama won all events in front of Missouri’s record-breaking crowd of 5,760.

The defending NCAA all-around and vault champion, Hunter claimed both of those titles against the Tigers. Hunter posted a score of 39.675 for her all-around mark and earned a 9.95 on the vault. It’s evident that after Hunter’s sensational season last year, she’s still hungry for more as her all-around total ties for her second-highest career total. Hunter also shared the uneven bars event after scoring a 9.90.

“I hate losing more than I love winning so it was hard for me after we found out the final score,” Hunter said. “I did get a little emotional but in the back of my head I was thinking it is the beginning of the season. It was a bad taste in our mouths but it was the first road meet and it’s a really competitive sport. We had to come back in the gym and give it our all.”

Junior Mackenzie Caquatto took home the balance beam event after scoring a 9.95 on her nearly perfect routine.

“This week we are focusing on going big and doing the stuff we do every day in the gym, not holding back on any landings,” senior Ashanée Dickerson said. “We are going to make sure we get all of the landings, all the handstands that we missed and work on the little things.”

Gator Country reporter Elizabeth Rhodes can be reached at