Gators gymnastics crunches Bulldogs

When Marissa King’s bare feet met the mat on her balance beam dismount, she didn’t move.

She waited a full five seconds, holding her place, before she peeled her toes from the floor to celebrate with her teammates.

After getting a wink and a smile from one of the judges, the junior ran to coach Rhonda Faehn for a tight hug following her stunning 9.95 routine.

King said she over exaggerated her stuck landing so there wouldn’t be a drip of doubt in anyone’s mind about the strength of her performance. That, Faehn said, was an exemplification of pure confidence.

“It helps the girls,” Faehn said of King’s move. “It gets them fired up, too. She really helps with the energy and the whole mental side of it out there.”

No. 1 Florida shined mentally, physically and numerically in the confines of the O’Connell Center Friday night against No. 3 Georgia for a 197.525-196.825 victory. While King’s performance on balance beam nabbed her the top spot for the event, Florida gymnasts swept the rest of the events of the dual meet, as well.

King was one of four all-around competitors on UF’s lineup against UGA, joining junior Ashanée Dickerson, sophomore Alaina Johnson and freshman Kytra Hunter. King racked up the win on uneven bars with a 9.925 and Hunter came out on top of vault and floor with a 9.95. Hunter also won the all-around with a 39.675 total.

Though the Gators didn’t have the strongest outing on vault to kick off the meet, as the gymnasts either maintained the score they performed last week or did worse, the squad bounced back on uneven bars with every gymnast earning a 9.8 or higher.

Florida continued its high scores on the balance beam with Hunter’s 9.925 and Dickerson’s 9.875 routines. Dickerson recalled the matchup against Georgia last year on its home turf — an arena notorious for haggling fans.

“Dog food!”

“Dog food!”

These were the words screamed at the Gators when they entered the locker room before the 2011 meet. Though UF came out on top, Dickerson said it felt a lot better being in the Gator Nation, performing in front of Friday’s 6,134-person crowd.

However, the energy of the crowd and gymnasts alike proved to be a feat when the Gators were moving through their floor routines.

Three routines in a row — Stageberg’s, Johnson’s and King’s — were plagued by 0.10 deductions from stepping out of bounds due to too much energy.

“Going out of bounds three times in a row on floor is a little bit shocking,” Faehn said. “But at the same time, I’ve always told them, ‘If you’re going to make a mistake, I want it by going 100 percent — full throttle.’ And that’s what they were doing. They were so hyped up and energized — that mistake came from that.”

Faehn added that going out of bounds is only a minor issue and she said she’s glad the team can work on correcting a problem like that at this point in the season so they are prepped for post season.

Coming off the Georgia win, Florida is now finished with regular season Southeastern Conference competition. The Gators will compete in an away dual meet against Nebraska Sunday, March 4.

For the Nebraska meet, Faehn said she will utilize resting some of the athletes, including senior Amy Ferguson on floor, so they can get a breather before the trials of post season fire off.

“Nebraska’s a really good team,” Faehn said. “It’s a road meet. But at the same time, our focus is on making sure our athletes are prepared and well rested for the longevity of the season.”

Additional notes:

UF’s 197.525 total was its third-highest of the season.

Marissa King mimicked her collegiate bests on uneven bars and balance beam.

Kytra Hunter mimicked her collegiate best on vault and her all-around score is Florida’s highest all-around total this season.

Gator Country reporter Allison can be reached at You can also follow her on Twitter at @allisonbanko.