The University of Florida has a long history of high-caliber recruits, and the incoming class for the 2023 season is no exception. Kayla DiCello is the most accomplished of the class, with an Olympic alternate berth and a World all-around bronze medal to her name, among many other international and national accomplishments.
DiCello has been verbally committed to Florida since shortly after her first appearance on the junior national team in 2018, but she signed her NLI this past fall, making that commitment formal. She will bring strong routines on all four apparatus, though with five seniors returning and the addition of two transfers from Georgia, it will be hard for anyone, even DiCello, to make all four lineups in a single week.
We had a chance to speak with her while she was at Pan Ams Selection Camp a few weeks ago, where she was selected to the team that later won silver in Rio, and she shared a few thoughts about her commitment process and what she’s looking forward to.
She was first drawn to Florida after seeing the high success level of Gators both athletically and academically. She said, “It was important [to me] to be at a school that had enthusiasm and excitement around the gymnastics program. Seeing the enthusiastic crowds at each meet is amazing, [and] along with the team’s support of one another, [that] really drew me to the University of Florida.” The caliber of the facilities, the achievements of the program, and the supportive environment among the athletes were highlights for DiCello that set Florida apart from the other options she was considering.
She quickly bonded with the coaches upon her first visit, saying, ” I somewhat knew this was the right place for me from the first interaction with the coaches… [they] were very nice, relatable, and supportive from the first time I talked to them.”
Head coach Jenny Rowland stood out to her in particular as someone who would be in her corner. Her one word to describe Rowland? “Genuine… from the first time we talked. She was very welcoming and easy to talk with. I had the opportunity to watch a team practice, and I was happy to see how much she cared about the athletes and her passion for the sport.”
DiCello recognized that not only did Florida fit the bill as far as gymnastics, but academically as well. She hopes to study sports medicine, which is historically a strong program at UF, as well as a program that several Gator Gymnastics alumni have previously studied. She did consider a few other schools, but said that “once [she] toured Florida’s campus and spent time with the coaches, [she] knew that Florida was a perfect fit.”
With her background on the U.S. national team, DiCello already feels a strong sense of connection to the team. “There are so many amazing gymnasts on this team and I have had the opportunity to spend time with many of them,” she said. “I am so excited to build on our past relationships and create even more memories here.”
When asked about the greatest strength she think she brings to the table, rather than naming an event, DiCello had this to say: “A high level of hard work, consistency, and enthusiasm.” Her favorite apparatus, though, is bars. “It’s so much fun to execute release moves on the bars and swing them, such an amazing feeling.” She also loves her double layout on floor, so clearly flying is part of the appeal!
Gymnastics is all about energy and self-improvement for DiCello. “I love the energy the comes from competing in front of the crowds and having the opportunity to inspire young girls in their pursuit of gymnastics,” she told us. Her favorite meet she’s competed in was the 2021 Olympic Trials, “because the pressure and excitement centered on the opportunity to be selected to the Olympic team. The process leading up the meet as well as the meet itself was an unforgettable experience for sure.” She thrives under that pressure, loving the process of learning new skills and mastering them for high-level competitions like Trials.
With her enthusiasm for high-pressure environments, it makes sense that DiCello would want to squeeze a few more meets into her elite career. She plans to compete at U.S. Championships, which will take place just a few hours south of UF in Tampa on August 18-21. It’ll be a great opportunity for local Gator fans to see her in person, so be sure to head to Amalie Arena if you can! If not, it will be broadcast on NBC networks throughout the weekend.
Following Championships, DiCello will almost immediately head for Gainesville, though according to Rowland, she hasn’t ruled out a run at the Olympics in Paris in 2024. She’s looking forward to her freshman year with a positive attitude and a competitive spirit, and she’ll need both if she’s going to make lineups within this stacked team. Gator fans should look forward to seeing her fly, especially on bars and floor, this coming season!