The No. 2 Florida Gators gymnastics team (8-2, 6-1 SEC) finished their regular-season schedule with a disappointing loss Saturday night at No. 7 Utah (10-2-1, 4-1-1 Pac-12). Despite earning the nation’s top road score of 2013, the Gators fell short 198.125-197.875 in the Jon M. Huntsman Center in front of nearly 15,000 people. Utah’s score ranks in as the nation’s third-highest score of the season while Florida’s comes in at fifth.
Freshman Bridget Sloan was nothing short of proud of her team as she was beaming about what a tremendous show they put on despite defeat.
“It’s always nice to walk away from a competition knowing you did your best and I think all of us Gators did our best,” Sloan said. “Our energy was the highest ever on a road meet and our team score was incredible. A 197.875 – that is unreal! It just feels really good to be able to compete this weekend knowing we hit all our routines and we got the scores.”
Sloan ended her freshman regular-season on a high note as the Gator shared her fourth all-around season title with Utah’s sophomore Georgia Dabritz at 39.70, the nation’s third-highest score of the season. Sophomore Kytra Hunter was right behind her placing third with Utah’s sophomore Tory Wilson at 39.65.
The prospects of a victory were looking promising for Florida early on as the Gators started off the evening, notching the third-highest uneven bars total of the year, 49.55 in their opening rotation. Sloan scored the highest for the Gators coming in second at 9.975 behind Utah’s Dabritz who placed first with a perfect 10.0. Junior Mackenzie Caquatto earned third notching a 9.925 on the event.
Hunter started Florida off on their second rotation, the vault, and captured first place sharing with Utah’s Wilson. Like Sloan on the bars, Hunter nearly earned a perfect mark capturing a 9.975. Dabritz placed third for the Utes at 9.925 to round out the top three. The Gators posted a 49.450 on the event.
Halfway through the meet, the Utes were leading Florida 99.05- 99.00. As the Gators went to the floor for their third rotation, Utah dominated the beam earning a season-best of 49.425 extending their lead.
Hunter and Sloan led the Gators on the floor both earning 9.90s. Utah’s sophomore Becky Tutka and Dabritz would notch first on the event as the Utes ended on the floor for their final rotation. The duo scored a sensational 9.975 followed by Utah’s junior Lia Del Priore who scored a 9.925 to sweep the event. Utah notched their season-best of 49.65 on the floor while the Gators registered a 49.375 before moving to the beam.
The Gators finished their final rotation on a strong note turning in a 49.50, the second-highest total on the event of the year. Sloan gained her second consecutive title on the beam event after registering a 9.950. Senior Ashanée Dickerson notched a season-best 9.925 to share second place with Utah’s sophomore Kassandra Lopez.
Senior Randy Stageberg, sophomore Rachel Spicer along with Hunter and Caquatto all scored 9.875 to close out the meet.
“They did a great job everywhere and fought for every little thing,” UF Head Coach Rhonda Faehn said. “Then of course on the last event, which is the most important, when everything is on the line to go six-for-six and compete aggressively there was no holding back. The team was not tentative at all and I loved that.”
Despite a heartbreaking loss, the Gators are keeping their chins up as the defending conference champs have the SEC meet to focus on coming up March 23 in the Verizon Arena in North Little Rock, Ark.
“I was extremely proud of our athletes coming away with the nation’s highest road score so far this entire year,” Faehn said. “It will help our RQS (regional qualifying score, which is used to rank the nation’s teams) and will help us go back to the No. 1 spot heading into the conference championships. I feel like we came out and we accomplished so much here and I am so proud of the team.”
The meet will be divided up into two sessions and teams will be ranked based on their regional qualifying score (RQS). Teams ranked between 5-8 will compete in the session starting at 3 p.m. Florida will be placed among the No. 1-4 seeds to compete in the second session, beginning at 7 p.m. Currently four SEC teams are ranked in the nation’s top 10: No. 2 Florida, No. 4 Alabama, No. 5 LSU and No. 6 Georgia.
“Going on into next week, obviously we have a big meet coming up at SECs,” Sloan said. “Now we are feeling great, everyone looks great and it will be a great competition.”
The Florida-Utah meet airs at 8 p.m. March 21st and 12:30 p.m. March 23rd on the Pac-12 Network.
Gator Country reporter Elizabeth Rhodes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.