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Young Florida Gators gymnasts finish fifth as UCLA captures title

GAINESVILLE — Florida coach Rhonda Faehn said this week that her team hadn't seemed to be bothered by pressure all year despite five freshmen, including both all-around competitors.

On Friday, the Gators' youth finally caught up with them.

Marissa King had an uncharacteristically poor performance and second-seeded UF (197.0) couldn't overcome a slow start, finishing fifth at the NCAA gymnastics team finals in the O'Connell Center.

UCLA won its sixth NCAA title with a score of 197.725.

Oklahoma (197.25) was the runnerup in its first Super Six appearance. Alabama (197.225), Stanford (197.1) and Utah (196.225) rounded out the field.

"What's just a little bit frustrating is that the youth of our team really showed, this weekend and (Friday) especially," Faehn said. "When we're really looking for our key performers to hit those routines that we're always expecting the big scores from and (they're) having rough and off nights, I think it was just too much to try to battle from."

King led UF's comeback in the preliminary round Thursday, posting a 9.9 on vault and a 9.925 on floor for a 39.4 all-around score.

It was a much different scenario Friday as the freshman fell on the first two events, bars and beam, en route to a 37.725 all-around score. Only King's vault score (9.8) counted toward the team total. (Teams use six gymnasts on each event with the best five counting.)

King fared worse in every event in the finals compared with her prelims performance. Her bars (8.55) and beam (9.15) scores were career lows.

"I do feel it was partly my fault, but then we're a team, so we win together, lose together," she said. "We do all things together. It's a learning experience."

Florida was fifth and trailed the Bruins by almost five-tenths of a point through two events.

"When you're in a situation where there's six phenomenal teams, you really just can't afford to have a rough event," Faehn said. "It's not really something you can come back from."

UCLA coach Valorie Kondos Field said she thought the Gators were her team's toughest competition but added home-gym advantage is a double-edged sword.

UCLA won as a host in 2004.

"There's a lot of pressure on you when you're at home," Field said. "I really felt if Florida got the momentum going, then they would be hard to beat at home."

The challenge for Faehn and Florida is to use this experience to improve. The Gators have only five seniors on this year's team.

"The team we're going to have next year is absolutely phenomenal," Faehn said, "but it'll be a very young team again, so they really have to be strong and learn and not make the same mistakes."

FSU's Alabi going pro

Florida State center Solomon Alabi declared for the NBA draft.

"The sport of basketball is very important to me, and I want to continue my growth in the sport," said the 7-1 Alabi, 22, who has until May 8 to change his mind if he doesn't hire an agent.

The third-year sophomore, who was on the ACC's all-defensive team, has been projected as a first-round pick.

More declarations: Kentucky junior forward Patrick Patterson (no agent yet), Northern Arizona junior guard Cameron Jones (won't hire agent) and Temple junior forward Lavoy Allen (no agent yet).

Cornell: Virginia Tech assistant Bill Courtney was hired as coach to replace Steve Donahue, now coach at Boston College.

Iowa: Coach Fran McCaffery hired former UCF coach Kirk Speraw as an assistant. He was fired after 17 seasons at UCF.

Iowa State: Jeff Grayer, the Cyclones' career scoring leader, was hired as an assistant to coach Greg McDermott.

Washington: Guard Isaiah Thomas had surgery on his right big toe to remove a bone spur.

Other sports

Football: The NCAA approved 35 bowl games for the next four years. The bowls were licensed on a four-year cycle for the first time, though they will be reviewed each year.

Women's basketball: Jennifer Azzi, a former All-American point guard at Stanford and WNBA star, officially took over as coach of San Francisco.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

Young Florida Gators gymnasts finish fifth as UCLA captures title 04/23/10 [Last modified: Friday, April 23, 2010 11:03pm]
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