If the saying "you never get a second chance to make a first impression," holds true, Jenny Rowland needn’t lose sleep.
In her first meet as the coach of Florida’s gymnastics program, Rowland’s team marched into Kitty Magee Arena in Denton, Texas, emerging victorious after a convincing performance against an overmatched Texas Woman’s University.
Just how potent was that initial impression?
Winning by a solid 5.375 point margin, Rowland’s Gators posted a score of 196.825, the fourth-highest mark to open a UF gymnastics campaign in the program’s 44-season history. Additionally, UF swept the event, netting contributions from freshmen and returning gymnasts alike.
For Rowland, it was an ideal performance in her first ride around the collegiate coaching carousel.
"So incredibly proud of this team," Rowland said in a release.
"We knew there would be mistakes, but that’s OK because we don’t need to be at our best right now. We came in and did what we needed to do."
Under her watch, the tandem of senior Bridget Sloan and sophomore Kennedy Baker clinched the top-two spots in the all-around. Sloan tacked on an additional two titles in the uneven bars and floor routines, while Alex McMurtry’s 9.925 snagged her both the vault title and the meet’s overall highest score. On the balance beam, UF posted its second-highest season-opening score, with an aggregate 49.425 falling just shy of the 2004 squad’s 49.45.
The Gators thoroughly dominated the competition.
But as far as Rowland is concerned, results are only part of the entire equation.
"Our theme this year is to focus on the process and enjoy that journey. We aren’t focusing on the destination."
Considering where the program stands in the grand scheme of amateur gymnastics — one championship away from a coveted four-peat — this day-by-day approach does more than just keep Rowland and her gymnasts grounded.
"One other theme we have is ‘Designed to Go Far’," Rowland said.
"It is just knowing that anything and everything that happens in our lives makes us the person we are. We want to build on that day after day."
At first glance, a team bearing the combined weight of a target on its back from being a three-time defending national champions as well as the inexperience that comes with a rookie head coach seems too much to handle.
But if Rowland can maintain this air of cool into the more challenging stretches of Florida's schedule, the Gators have a chance to achieve success as it strives for its ultimate goal of an NCAA title.
Follow Alejandro López on Twitter @ajlb95