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Dabs and dancing: transfer Rachel Slocum energizes UF gymnastics

RACHEL SLOCUM

UF gymnastics head coach Jenny Rowland has said it multiple times this season: if you don't know Rachel Slocum, you're missing out.

When the junior gymnast transferred from Eastern Michigan to Florida this year, she wasted no time in winning over her teammates -- and the fans -- with her energy and crazy dance moves.

"I told myself coming in that I was gonna go out and I wasn't gonna hold back, I was gonna be myself," Slocum said. "And I guess being myself has caused people to draw attention to me. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but I'm still gonna continue to dab and dance as I please. So if people want to pay attention to that, then good for them."

Pay attention is exactly what people have done. Slocum is known as 'the dancing girl' -- the one breaking it down on the floor, even when she's not competing.

Judges have paid attention, too. Slocum's vault -- a front handspring pike-front half twist -- is uncommon, but it's earned her seven titles in the event, which leads the UF team.

"I'm serious when the time calls for it," she said. "Obviously, you have to think about your corrections. You have to think about what you've been training for. That's the time to be serious. But, more so on the sidelines, I think I'm just trying to keep the energy high and keep the team super positive with all the dance moves and everything."

And teammates appreciate the added spunk.

"Whatever comes to her head, she just puts it out there," freshman Amelia Hundley said. "Sometimes we're wondering what she's doing, but she's just on her own pace, so we just let her keep doing it. I think it helps us because we don't -- we aren't so uptight and tense all the time when she's a little relaxed and crazy."

"I honestly can't imagine the team without her."

During her two years at EMU, Slocum was the 2016 Mid-American Conference Specialist of the Year and a member of the squad that won the MAC title. She was also the second qualifier for the NCAA Championship in program history.

But, she felt something bigger was awaiting her.

"Being in the SEC for the first time -- everything is so new, everything is so bigger," she said. "If you would've asked me my freshman year, I don't think I would have pictured myself coming to the University of Florida. But now that I'm here, I can't think of it any other way. Being able to go out there and know those girls have my back and I have theirs and just ending the season on a great note is gonna be awesome."

The 5-foot-3 fan favorite has been searching for a perfect mark on the vault all season. Slocum will get another chance at 8 p.m. Friday in St. Louis, when the No. 3 Gators compete in the semifinals of the NCAA Championship.

Two weekends ago during NCAA Regionals at the O'Connell Center, she came strikingly close to perfection with a vault score of 9.95 that sent the entire arena into a frenzy.

But as for that perfect 10, Slocum said she has a plan:

"I've been telling people that I've been saving the 10 for Nationals, so that's gonna happen."

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