Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

UF, Dickerson Eye National Title; Jacksonville Native Leads Top-Ranked Gators into NCAA Championships

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

UF, Dickerson Eye National Title; Jacksonville Native Leads Top-Ranked Gators into NCAA Championships

Article excerpt

Byline: Hays Carlyon

GAINESVILLE | Florida senior gymnast Ashane'e Dickerson has already built a lasting legacy.

Now, the Jacksonville native has a chance to cap her career by forging a legendary one for the Gators.

Dickerson, an eight-time All-American, is fourth in school history with 68 event titles.

The Ed White graduate is a key cog in top-ranked Florida's pursuit of its first national championship. The Gators begin competition in the NCAA championships Friday at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles.

Only Utah, Alabama, Georgia and UCLA have won national titles. Florida appears ready to join the exclusive club.

The Gators finished runner-up to Alabama last season in excruciatingly close fashion 197.85-197.775.

"That experience is going to help us a lot," Dickerson said. "Just being a part of the national championship meet last year and how close we came to it. Becoming second-place finishers, I know that has fueled us since that happened. This summer, we worked very hard on our team to make sure we'd be prepared for this coming competition."

UF showed its impressive skills at the regional meet in Gainesville on April 6. The Gators finished first with a score of 198.400, the second-highest score posted in the nation this season. Minnesota was second at 197.100. The country's top score also belongs to UF, a 198.425-point effort in a win over Minnesota on March 1.

Dickerson shared first-place honors in the vault at regionals. Her victory was a fitting end to her finale in the O'Connell Center, a place she used to travel to as an 8-year-old to watch the Gators gymnastics team compete.

"Ashane'e is such an incredibly inspirational gymnast here at Florida," said UF coach Rhonda Faehn, who has led the Gators to regional titles in eight of her 11 years in Gainesville.

"She's always been our most consistent performer and has given total heart to the Gators program. …

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