When Jenny Rowland took the helm of the Gators nearly two years ago, she inherited a program in its prime.
Former coach Rhonda Faehn had led Florida to 10 NCAA Super Six appearances during her 13-year tenure, and to three straight national titles in her last three seasons, before becoming Senior Vice President of USA Gymnastics.
When she departed, she left Rowland expectations that any coach — let alone a first-year head coach — would have difficulty fulfilling in the SEC, one of the most competitive conferences in the sport.
And while there was no four-peat National Championship last season, Rowland has kept the No. 3 Gators at the top since taking over, seamlessly avoiding a drop-off during the transition.
“The biggest takeaway so far is that no two years are ever alike,” Rowland said. “Helping these young ladies get better everyday, not only in gymnastics but in their lives in general, I take a lot of pride in that.”
Despite losing one of the most decorated UF gymnasts ever, Bridget Sloan, to graduation after last season, this year’s squad is once again in position to make it far into the postseason with a younger team.
All of the athletes who take to the mat this Saturday at the NCAA Gainesville Regional will return next season.
The five Gators — Rachel Slocum, Alex McMurtry, Kennedy Baker, Alicia Boren and Amelia Hundley — who earned NACGC regular-season All-America honors are spread among Florida’s freshman, sophomore and junior classes, leaving the future of the program bright.
“Every player has competed this year and that’s really exciting,” Rowland said. “Having five regular-season All-Americas this year is a great honor and a great testament to them.”
One of the things Rowland has helped do for the program is elevate its level of consistency.
Of the 10 regular-season meets in 2017, the Gators scored above a 197.10 in each with the exception of just one, and are now ready to peak as they get deeper into postseason.
However, while the Gators may be excited by the prospect of vying for another NCAA title, they first will have to notch one of the top two scores at Regionals on Saturday if they want to advance.
“It’s just amazing to see the leadership of this team,” Rowland said, “and their desires, their determination and wanting to succeed and be their best at the end of the season.”