The No. 4 University of Florida gymnastics team claimed the crown at the 30th edition of the Southeastern Conference Champions held in front of Veteran Memorial Arena crowd of 5,628 in Jacksonville.
The title is the seventh for the Gator program and the first since 2007.
With a team total of 197.05, the Gators crushed the competition. The defending Southeastern Conference champion team, Alabama was runner up with a team score of 196.875.
Five-time defending NCAA champion, University of Georgia was third at 196.825, followed by Louisiana State University, Auburn, Arkansas and Kentucky.
The meet was very competitive and suspenseful. Five of the nation’s current top 10 teams come from the SEC. As Florida and Georgia and competed in the same rotation, the crowd was intense. Each team draws a rotation schedule to compete in and the Gators were lucky drawing vault, bars, beam and floor, which is the Olympic rotation.
The Gators’ vault start was not a good one. They had trouble focusing and sticking their landings, while Alabama did exceptionally well on the uneven bars. The Gators made up for their vault scores on the uneven bars, by hitting all their handstands and sticking their landings and bringing in phenomenal scores.
As the Gators moved to balance beam they were still on top but only by three tenths of a point.
They had to dig deep and stay focus while UGA fans were screaming for the bulldogs as they competed on floor exercise. From UGA, Courtney McCool, 2008 Olympic gymnast scored a 9.95 making her the SEC 2010 floor champion, this electrified the crowd, and everyone was standing on their feet.
Each Gator gymnast had 9.8 or above on beam but the Gators were counting on a big score and hoping freshman Ashanee Dickerson, could respond. She took on the challenge and scored a 9.925. The crowd was full of screams. Dickerson, a Jacksonville native had many supporters there. This score tied her for second overall in the final beam standings.
“I was just really proud of the way she handled that, as a freshman. That shows again the future for the Gator team,” said Rhonda Faehn, the Gators’ head coach to the Florida Times Union.
“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 last gymnast finished competing, every tenth counts. If a gymnast was off by an inch, that could have cost them a tenth of a point or more and this would not only hurt their score but the team score as well.
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 a 9.85 on the event to claim the title and UGA moved to balance beam. The Gators pulled out the win by having nice, clean floor routines and barely any mess-ups.
With UGA having a fall on the balance beam, UF swept by Alabama and Georgia to claim the title.
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, after Ashley Priess from Alabama, who placed first with a 39.50.
“I was just really proud of the way she handled that, as a freshman. That shows again the future for the Gator team.”
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 Stephen C. O’Connell Center.