Scott Carter’s Blog Carter’s Corner
Senior Randy Stageberg is unable to compete this weekend but remains involved.
LOS ANGELES -- This isn't the way Gators senior Randy Stageberg imagined her college career ending.
She envisioned the Gators gymnastics team having a great season and making it here for the NCAA Gymnastics Championships, that part of the script is spot on. The shoulder injury she suffered is a plot twist she could live without.
Instead of competing at Pauley Pavilion in today's Super Six to determine the national championship, Stageberg will serve as the Gators' lead cheerleader. Stageberg, who leads off on floor and beam, suffered a fractured shoulder during practice leading up to the regional meet, forcing a premature end to her career.
Despite her disappointment, Stageberg remains a visible force for the Gators as they try to win the program's first national title (7 p.m., ET).
"I'm just trying to keep moving and make sure the team knows that I'm still here for them in any way I can be,'' Stageberg said. "I've always kind of been like a cheerleader in the gym."
Stageberg was having perhaps her best season prior to the injury, including matching her career-best score on the floor (9.90) to help the Gators win the Southeastern Conference Championships last month.
The surgery is similar to the one she suffered in high school in 2008 that required surgery and sidelined her for a year. Once healthy, Stageberg arrived at UF in 2010 and reeled off 40 consecutive "hit" routines on the beam to finish her career.
Her loss was a tough blow for Florida coach Rhonda Faehn.
"When [the MRI] came back and we knew she was going to be done for the season, of course I addressed it because she has meant so much to the program,'' Faehn said. "But the most important thing was she has adapted into a new role and will be just as important to this team whether she is competing or not."
Stageberg is doing her part, constantly encouraging teammates during routines and providing an experienced voice when needed.
"I think at that moment [of the injury] I kind of started bracing myself for it, because it's pretty devastating,'' she said. "I've just been adjusting to my new role every day and accepting it. It's been different, it's been hard."
Stageberg plans to remain close to the sport after her time at UF ends. She already has a job lined up this summer at her gym in Chesapeake, Va.
If the Gators do win their first national title tonight, Stageberg's career will come to a close the way she imagined after all.
"It would mean so much,'' she said. "I don't think I've ever seen so much heart on one team, so much passion for the sport. We just want it so bad with everything that we've been through and how close we got last year."
Gators freshman Bridget Sloan (photo, left) captured the program's second consecutive all-around national title on Friday with her score of 39.600. She joins Kytra Hunter as the only Gators to win the all-around title.
Hunter claimed the title a year ago and finished tied for seventh on Friday. The NCAA all-around champion is determined on the first day of the tournament. Meanwhile, Florida senior Marissa King finished in a four-way tie for third.
Sloan scored 9.900 on the floor and beam, 9.875 on vault and 9.925 on the bars to edge second-place Rheagan Courville (39.575) of LSU.
"The last few months have been incredible,'' said Sloan, the 2009 World Champion. "Being a student-athlete is very hard, but it has been an awesome experience for me. It's been an incredible ride with incredible coaches."
Florida, LSU and Georgia advanced to the Super Six from Friday's first semifinal session, and Alabama, UCLA and Oklahoma moved on in the second session.
That means four of the six teams competing for the national title today are from the SEC, with the Gators and LSU trying to join Georgia, Alabama, UCLA and Utah as the only programs to win the national title.
"There is so much parity in the country, it's truly a feat to be able to advance,'' said LSU coach D-D Breaux.
Feahn's trip to UCLA for the national championships brings back some memories. She competed for the Bruins from 1990-92 and started her coaching career at a UCLA student assistant from 1992-94.
Faehn graduated in 1994 with a history degree and earned All-American second-team honors in the all-around and beam in 1992. She downplayed her return, preferring the focus to remain on the Gators.
"It will be a little different in that respect,'' Faehn said. "But I’m there with the team strictly for business and on Florida’s behalf we’re just thrilled to go there and be a part of this championship.”
She was impressed Friday by the renovations at Pauley Pavilion. When she competed for the Bruins, they held the biggest meet of the season at the iconic venue but not the same one the Gators saw Friday.
"This arena is absolutely gorgeous,'' she said. "Our team had a blast out there."
UF's Caquatto sisters -- junior Mackenzie and freshman Bridgette -- had a day to remember. Mackenzie scored 9.825 on vault and 9.950s on bars and beam. Bridgette finished with a 9.825 on the floor. Their combined score 39.550 wass good enough to challenge Sloan for the all-around title ... Stageberg isn't surprised by Sloan's success adapting to the college level. A former elite-level gymnast herself, Stageberg remembers meeting Sloan nearly 10 years ago at her first elite camp in Texas. "To be finishing my career with her is pretty cool." ... The combined attendance at Friday's Session I and Session II was 4,347.