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Wednesday, February 28, 2024
<p>Freshman Alex McMurtry competes on the uneven parallel bars during Florida's win against Auburn on Friday in the O'Connell Center.</p>

Freshman Alex McMurtry competes on the uneven parallel bars during Florida's win against Auburn on Friday in the O'Connell Center.

Led by a breakout performance from freshman Alex McMurtry, No. 3 Florida (2-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) defeated No. 21 Auburn (1-1, 0-1 SEC) in the Gators’ home opener Friday night, 197.200-195.650.

In her debut in front of the home crowd and only second vault in her collegiate career, McMurtry landed a perfect 10, leading to a deafening reaction from the crowd and her teammates.

It was the earliest career perfect mark ever by a Gator gymnast.

“When everyone started yelling ‘10, 10, 10,’ it was just the best feeling,” McMurtry said.

The score provided a much needed spark for a Florida team that was struggling early on vault. Of the five gymnasts in front of McMurtry, only fellow freshman Kennedy Baker managed to score higher than a 9.825.

McMurtry said she knew she needed to have a good performance to pick the team back up, but she didn’t let herself think about what was at stake.

“Being the anchor on vault definitely was a lot of pressure,” she said, “and of course all you can do is really watch your teammates, cheer them on, and whether they do really, really well or if we have some mistakes, you still have to do your job. I just talked myself through it… .”

“I think from then on, I think we all had so much adrenaline and energy and we just took it forward to the next event.”

The team was able to capture that momentum and carry it into bars, where three Gators scored in the 9.9 range and Florida totaled 49.525 - its highest scoring event.

McMurtry was one of those in the 9.9 range, posting a team second-best 9.925.

She followed that up with a solid 9.850 on beam, her final rotation of the meet.

Florida coach Rhonda Faehn said she wasn’t surprised with her freshman’s performance.

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“Alex is so incredibly talented,” she said. “During the whole recruiting process I just called her like a gold mind, she has so much potential.”

“She’s just had really limited training, and so for her to step out and do as well as she did in the three events she did tonight with maybe two weeks worth of training is just incredible. It speaks volumes about her determination and her talent level.”

McMurtry also competed with more than soreness from last week’s meet. McMurtry and two of her teammates were in a car accident on Archer Road Wednesday night, and she said she could still feel the effects Friday, although they were not significant enough to affect her performance.

Kytra Hunter won a share of the all-around title with Auburn’s Caitlin Atkinson with a 39.500.

In Kennedy Baker’s first time competing in all-around, she posted a score of 39.350.

Bianca Dancose-Giambattisto won the individual bars title with a score of 9.950, and Hunter won the individual floor title with a score of 9.875.

“This competition I thought was definitely a step in the right direction, no doubt,” Faehn said. “I told the team after we were done that there were so many great positives, but at the same time, it is part of the journey and it’s a very long season.”

Follow Graham Hack on Twitter @graham_hack24

Freshman Alex McMurtry competes on the uneven parallel bars during Florida's win against Auburn on Friday in the O'Connell Center.

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