Alicia Boren

UF gymnast Alicia Boren smiles during the Southeastern Conference Championships on March 18, 2017, in Jacksonville.

Grace King / Alligator Staff

There’s a lot at stake for the No. 3 Florida gymnastics team, which will have to notch one of the top two scores at this weekend’s regional meet to advance to the NCAA Championship on April 14.

But for new team members, the stakes are just as high when it comes to annual team ritual that sophomore Alicia Boren is especially looking forward to.

The regional tournament incorporates bye periods where teams aren’t performing, so to keep their muscles warm and their attitudes light during those off rotations, the Gators have each of the newcomers perform a dance in front of everyone on the sideline.

Last year, Boren performed a Florida Dazzlers-inspired routine.

“It went really good, actually,” Boren said.

Florida coach Jenny Rowland, who also had to participate last season, said that while she thought she was a good dancer, she couldn’t say the same for assistant coach Owen Field.

“That was really rough,” Rowland said. “We actually had to tell him that he could stop. That’s how ‘awesome’ it was.”

The ritual is one way to help keep Florida ready for a meet where, in the past, the team’s energy hasn’t been as high as usual.

Boren, though, is someone who has had high energy all season long.

The sophomore is the only Gator who has competed as an all-around entry in every one of the team’s 11 meets so far, which earned her first team NACGC Regular-Season All-American honors on all-around, vault and floor and a spot on the All-SEC team.

But competing in 44 events over such a short period of time has taken a toll on the Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, native, so having the last two weeks off from competition has helped refresh her heading into Saturday’s regional.

“It was really nice,” Boren said. “I do put a lot into the meet mentally, even more so than physically. So it was really good to just have a break.”

But break or not, Boren and the rest of the Gators know regionals will be difficult.

“Regionals is always a tough meet,” junior Alex McMurtry said. “It’s kind of a loss of momentum coming off a down week, but this is the time for us to pick up momentum again and go into NCAAs confident and strong.”

Contact Lauren Staff at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @lstaff27.