The University of Florida gymnastics team won its seventh title at the thirtieth Southeastern Conference Championship in Jacksonville. More than 5,600 onlooker at Veteran Memorial Arena watch as the Gators claimed their first championship since 2007.
The Gators, ranked fourth by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, finished with a team total of 197.05. The meet was very competitive and full of suspense as five of the teams in the NCAA top 10 are from the SEC. The defending SEC champions University of Alabama, was runner-up with a team score of 196.875. Five-time NCAA champion University of Georgia was third at 196.825, followed by Louisiana State University, Auburn University, University of Arkansas and University of Kentucky.
Each team draws a rotation schedule that determines in what order they will compete. The Gators drew the Olympic rotation: vault, bars, beam and floor. The crowd was intense as Florida and Georgia competed in the same rotation.
The Gator vault start was not good. They had trouble focusing and sticking their landings. Alabama followed with an exceptionally well performance on the uneven bars. The Gators made up for the vault scores on the uneven bars, hitting all their handstands and sticking their landings.
Bulldog fans were screaming for their athletes as they competed on floor exercise. Courtney McCool, the Bulldog’s 2008 Olympic gymnast, scored a 9.95 making her the 2010 SEC floor champion, electrifying the crowd.
The Gators were on top by three-tenths of a point as they moved to balance beam. Each Gator gymnast had 9.8 or above on the beam, but the Gators were counting on a big score from freshman Ashanee Dickerson to deliver. She answered the challenge, scoring a 9.925; the crowd erupted. Dickerson, a Jacksonville native had many supporters, on hand as she tied for second overall in the final beam standings.
“I never watch the routines before I go,” said Dickerson from the SEC Sports.com. “I just go through my routine in my head and I just talk to my self while I am doing my routine. I knew I had to stick the dismount.”
The meet was very close all the way to the finish. Every tenth of a point counted, so a gymnasts being off by an inch could have hurt the team.
“I was just really proud of the way she handled that, as a freshman,” said Gator head coach Rhonda Faehn to the Florida Times Union at Jacksonville.com. “That shows again the future for the Gator team.”
The final rotation had three teams in hunt for the team title. The score was neck and neck as Florida moved to the floor exercise. They only led the Gymdogs by 0.05 and they needed to average 9.85 to win. The Gators pulled out the win by having nice, clean floor routines.
Gators finished among the top four in the all-around competition. Dickerson, who was named the SEC freshman of the year, placed second in the all-round competition with a score of 39.45.
The NCAA Regional Championships are scheduled for April 10. The top two teams at each regional site will advance to the NCAA Championships, which are set for April 22-24 at the University if Florida’s Stephen C. O’Connell Center.