In the biggest competition since competing in the 2008 Olympics, Bridget Sloan set the standard on Saturday evening in Little Rock, Ark.
Sloan, the 2013 Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year, won the all-around event with an individual total of 39.750 as No. 1 Florida claimed its ninth SEC Championship, posting a score of 198.000 at the Verizon Arena.
The Gators, who tied for first on balance beam and floor, captured their third conference title in the last four years. Alabama finished second with a score of 197.90, while LSU was third at 197.700.
Bridget Sloan tied for first on uneven bars with a 9.950 and became the first Gator to win the all-around since Kytra Hunter in 2012. She was the third UF freshman to capture the all-around since Hunter last year.
No Gator outside of Sloan captured an individual event title outright, but the collective performance was strong enough to ensure a conference title win.
No. 3 Alabama came within striking distance and was narrowly edged by Florida down the stretch. Alabama fell shy of the evening’s highest score by a tenth margin despite taking the first event – vault – with a 49.550 score.
But Florida responded.
Led by Sloan, the Gators countered on every event. Despite posting a 49.375 on vault – the lowest total since Jan. 18 versus Missouri – Florida rallied behind three strong events.
In the next rotation, Florida posted a 49.50 on uneven bars. Mackenzie Caquatto, Marissa King and Sloan each posted scores of 9.90 or above. But due to SEC scoring, UF was forced to drop its highest score and lowest score, relinquishing Sloan’s mark from the team average.
Florida used its second-ranked beam average to piece together a strong 49.50. Sloan hit the highest mark of any UF gymnast. Caquatto and Ashanee Dickerson anchored the score, both tallying a 9.90 on the event.
The momentum carried forward into the final event.
Barely ahead of Alabama, Florida produced its third highest floor total of the year with a 49.625. It was the highest mark since UF’s rotation registered a 49.700 against Minnesota on March 1.
Each gymnast notched a 9.90 or above for the first time in 2013, as Florida rolled on for its second consecutive SEC Championship.
As the NCAA Regionals near, Florida will use this outing as a springboard for the rest of its postseason.
Freshman Bridget Sloan performs her bar routine during Florida's 198.10-196.85 win against Alabama on Feb. 8 in the O'Connell Center. Sloan won the all-around title at the SEC Championship meet on Saturday.