SALT LAKE CITY — Florida's first rotation at its NCAA Regional gymnastics meet inside the Huntsman Center Saturday evening didn't go the way that Gator coach Rhonda Faehn had hoped.
The Gators had two major out-of-bounds landings on floor, and they consequently scored much lower than they planned in the event.
"This," Faehn said afterward, "was probably one our worst floor performances."
But the other three rotations?
Florida, quite simply, was nearly flawless.
Following an average opening rotation, the Gators were stellar throughout the rest of the meet. With star freshman Ashanee Dickerson leading the way, Florida put up season-best scores in the uneven bars (49.5) and balance beam (4.575) en route to a season-best overall score of 197.675.
Projected as the favorite to win the NCAA's North Central Region beforehand, Florida lived up to that billing by beating second-place Utah (196.900) and the rest of the field.
"They didn't let that affect them," Faehn said of the opening rotation on floor, "and they just came back blaring on vault and just continued to carry that through the rest of the meet."
Florida got a number of exceptional performances from a number of gymnasts over those final three rotations, but at the center of everything was Dickerson.
She tied career highs in the vault (9.95) and balance beam (9.95) and set a career high in the bars (9.90). Consequently, she finished with a score of 39.700 to win the all-around competition ahead of Utah's Kyndal Roberts (39.45).
"Ashanee was amazing tonight, just unbelievable," said Faehn. "She's so shy and she's humble, (but) she's unbelievable. Her level of mental toughness, and she blocks everything out and just continues meet after meet, routine after routine, to get better and excel."
For her part, Dickerson said she loved the environment that the 6,141 fans at the Huntsman Center provided.
"I love the crowd, and they were really, really (great)," said Dickerson. "They cheered for everyone, and they didn't boo for anyone. It was just great to feed off that energy, and when one girl goes, the others go, and we just keep going and get high scores."Comment on this story
All in all, Saturday evening turned out nearly perfectly for Florida, which qualified convincingly for the NCAA championship event it will host in two weeks. And the Gators got good news when they learned that SEC rival Georgia lost out on a tie-breaker in its regional and did not qualify for nationals.
Florida's coaching staff, whose team was in the middle of a bye when news filtered through the Huntsman Center that Georgia missed out, cheered quite enthusiastically when it found out that Georgia wouldn't be going to the NCAA championships.
Faehn smiled when asked about the moment afterward before quickly adding, "I'm not gonna comment on that."