Posted: 2:44 p.m. Sunday, March 24, 2013
By Andy Hutchins
Little new can be said of the Florida gymnastics team, now the nation's No. 1 outfit and, after a show-stopping Saturday night performance at the SEC Championships in Little Rock, the SEC champions for the second straight year.
Florida scored a 198.000 to win the SEC title by 0.200 over LSU, notching its third score of 198.000 or better and topping its own national best of 197.875, scored last week against Utah, for a meet away from home. And even that might not have been the most impressive aspect of the night.
Entering their final rotation on the floor, Florida had a .025-point edge over Alabama, the smallest possible lead in college gymnastics. And then all six Florida gymnasts recorded scores of 9.90 or better on the floor, helping the Gators record a 49.625 in the event, the best score on any apparatus all night.
The SEC championship is Florida's third in gymnastics in four years and ninth all-time, in the sport and it came over three other top-six teams nationally: Two-time defending national champion Alabama, No. 5 Georgia, and No. 6 LSU. This is Florida's second time besting Alabama and Georgia this season, and its first win over LSU, which handed Florida its first loss back in January. It's also the sixth SEC championship for a Florida team this year, adding to a total that already had titles from volleyball, soccer, women's cross country, men's swimming and diving, and men's basketball.
Bridget Sloan, the SEC's Newcomer of the Year, matched LSU's Rheagan Courville for all-around title with a 39.750, won the uneven bars with a 9.95, and shared floor exercise honors with Kytra Hunter as both gymnasts posted 9.95s.
This all shapes up to be the makings of Florida's first national championship: Florida has seniors like Ashanée Dickerson and Marissa King to lead, all-around talents like Sloan and Hunter to deliver points in every apparatus, and specialists like Mackenzie Caquatto and Rachel Spicer to fill in the holes. There's no apparent weakness, and no way Florida won't make the NCAA Championships, not with their Regional meet coming in Gainesville on April 6.
All that's left for the Gators is executing on the grandest stage in their sport. They have given no indication to this point that it won't happen.