DiCello shines as No. 2 Florida wins NCAA Regional
PITTSBURGH, Pa. - Florida gymnastics is moving ahead to NCAA Regional final action after winning Friday's second session at Pittsburgh's Petersen Events Center.
The Gators tallied the day's top total across both of the Pittsburgh Regional second-round sessions. Florida's 197.875 included just one score from Gator All-American Trinity Thomas, who was unable to compete the final three events due to injury.
Florida now joins Arizona State (197.575), California (197.25) and Michigan State (196.825) for Sunday's NCAA Regional Final. The top two teams in Sunday's competition advance to the NCAA Championships, set for April 13-15 in Ft. Worth, Texas.
Tonight's Meet: A blind draw determined the competition order for today's regional competition. Four marks of 9.9 or better contributed to top-seeded Florida's opening total of 49.575. Marks of 9.95 by freshman Kayla DiCello and sophomore Riley McCusker led all in Friday's two sessions to win the event. Ellie Lazzari and Trinity Thomas also posted marks of 9.90.
The arena was silent after Thomas stopped her floor routine shortly after her opening double layout. She did not compete in the remaining two rotations due to a lower right leg injury. Her status is day-to-day.
Sophomore Leanne Wong won floor with a 9.975 - her third near-perfect mark of 2023. Victoria Nguyen equaled her collegiate best of 9.925 to start off the lineup while DiCello and Payton Richards posted 9.90s.
DiCello equaled her collegiate best of 9.95 to win the Regional vault title. Richards also posted a 9.90 while Bri Edwards stepped into the vault lineup to match her collegiate best of 9.85.
The only 10.0 of the Pittsburgh Regional was awarded for DiCello's uneven bars routine. She is the only one among the nation's three freshmen with 10.0s to earn multiple perfect marks.
After winning at least a share of three apparatus titles, DiCello took the all-around win with a collegiate-best 39.80. It is her second all-around win and first since the season opener.
EVENT WINNERS: Scores are combined from both NCAA Second Round sessions to determine event winners:
Vault: Kayla DiCello, Florida 9.95
Bars: Kayla DiCello, Florida 10.0
Beam: Kayla DiCello, UF, Riley McCusker, UF Gabrielle Stephen, MSU & Hannah Scharf, ASU 9.95
Floor: Leanne Wong, UF 9.975
AA: Kayla DiCello, UF 39.80
GATOR PERFORMANCE NOTES:
- DiCello's all-around total of 39.80 leads the nation's 2023 freshmen. She is the only freshman with two all-around totals among the nation's top 30 - No. T15 39.80 and No. T30 39.75 vs Missouri.
- Tonight was DiCello's second 10.0 on uneven bars. Her first came versus Missouri on Feb. 10. She is the nation's only freshman with multiple 10.0s in 2023. *
- Next up for Gators Hit: The two gymnasts that replaced Thomas in the Gators' final two events both equaled their collegiate bests: Bri Edwards - vault (9.85) and Payton Richards - uneven bars (9.875)
- A Gator has won all-around in each of UF's 12 meets this season.
- Collegiate bests tonight:
- Kayla DiCello 9.95 (vault), 10.0 (bars), 39.80 (all-around)
- Bri Edwards 9.85 (vault)
- Riley McCusker 9.95 (beam)
- Victoria Nguyen 9.925 (floor)
- Payton Richards 9.875 (bars)
- Leanne Wong 9.975 (floor)
COACH ROWLAND SAID:
"The Gators get to dance again. The Gators get to do gymnastics again. The Gators have another opportunity to compete for each other again. That is something we were focusing on today. Control what we can control and I think the Gators did a great job. There was a little adversity tonight. However I told them they handled it very gracefully, with calmness and confidence. I'm proud of all of them." - Florida Head Coach Jenny Rowland
Freshman Kayla DiCello could just look at her arms to find inspiration tonight. Those words included:
- Be You
"At SEC, I was warming up my front double full," DiCello said. "Jenny [Rowland] told me to be a goldfish as their memory is 10 seconds. Just forget about that one and move on to the next."
With her all-around total that ranks as the fourth highest ever by a Gator freshman (just trailing Leanne Wong's 39.875, 39.85 and 39.825 set last season), there likely wasn't much DiCello needed to forget tonight.
UP NEXT: NCAA Regional Finals are contested in four sites across the nation. The Los Angeles and Norman regions hold team finals on Saturday, April 1. Final round action for the Pittsburgh and Denver is scheduled for Sunday, April 2. The top two teams in each regional final advance to the April 13-15 NCAA Championships in Ft. Worth