Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
We inform. You decide.
Saturday, May 25, 2024
<p>Florida junior all-arounder Bridget Sloan and freshman all-arounder Alex McMurtry celebrate after competeing on vault during the 2015 NCAA gymnastics championships on Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas.</p>

Florida junior all-arounder Bridget Sloan and freshman all-arounder Alex McMurtry celebrate after competeing on vault during the 2015 NCAA gymnastics championships on Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas.

The result was the same.

But the journey to get there was not.

As the confetti streamed down upon the Fort Worth Convention Center on Saturday night, the UF gymnastics team jumped, yelled and joyously embraced while celebrating yet another national title.

Florida had just overtaken Utah in a dramatic final rotation of the Super Six competition, scoring two 9.950s from junior Bridget Sloan and freshman Alex McMurtry on the team’s final two bars routines to give the Gators the slight 197.850-197.800 advantage.

With the victory, Florida became just the third program in NCAA women’s gymnastics history to win three-consecutive championships.

Talk of a three-peat had been something discussed by media and fans all season.

But for the team, it was an elusive ideal that was considered a distraction if talked about in the midst of the title pursuit.

But now, every coach and gymnast could proudly hold up three fingers while taking post-meet pictures.

Besides the number of fingers held up, though, the scene after the competition was not much different from the two seasons before it.

But deep down, this title was different.

"It was not easy this year," coach Rhonda Faehn said. "By far, it was the hardest championship won of the three — by far the hardest. But the most meaningful."

Sloan agreed.

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Alligator delivered to your inbox

"This championship obviously means a lot because it’s our third one in a row," Sloan said, "but it means the most to me just because I didn’t think I was gonna be a part of it."

The reason: Sloan’s season could have ended just as soon as it began.

And that was just one of the curveballs thrown Florida’s way this year.

In the opening meet of the season at Ball State, just after scoring a perfect 10 on vault, Sloan landed awkwardly on her right foot during the final pass of her floor routine and suffered a severe ankle sprain.

The initial feeling was the year was over — for Sloan and Florida.

"With (Sloan) going down in the first meet of the year, everybody’s stomach just dropped," Faehn said, "and anything going through my head was ‘We’ve lost her for the entire season.’

"And any thoughts of trying to win or get to the end of a national championship without Bridget — probably not gonna happen."

While Sloan ultimately did return, the road back wasn’t easy for her or the team.

In the same Ball State meet, senior Jamie Shisler suffered a season-ending torn Achilles tendon.

In the third meet of the year, Florida fell on the road at Alabama with a sub-par performance, causing senior Kytra Hunter to call a meeting in the team hotel that night to say that everyone needed to dig deeper and give more.

Freshman Kennedy Baker suffered a concussion during training in the fifth week of the season and was unable to travel to Arkansas for the team’s competition that week.

McMurtry dealt with the crippling effects of stress fractures in her back the entire season, an injury that limited the freshman to only participating in a quarter of the team’s training throughout the year.

Sophomore Claire Boyce dealt with a nagging groin injury for the final third of the season.

Senior Rachel Spicer competed with a sprained ankle for the final two weeks of the season. Her mother was also diagnosed with cancer earlier in the year.

Florida never had the same exact lineup in consecutive weeks and lost three times in the regular season — the program’s most losses since 2009.

The team also choked away a massive lead and an assured conference title after suffering two falls and a break on the balance beam during the Southeastern Conference Championships.

As for Sloan, she went through six weeks of relentless rehab to return on bars against LSU midway through the year and slowly added events as the season winded down, pushing herself as far as she could go to be ready for the postseason.

Sometimes her training was limited. Sometimes she didn’t train at all.

But she persevered, as did her team.

It showed Saturday night.

"Our motto this year was to have heart," Hunter said after the meet.

"We definitely had so much heart today."

Hunter and the senior class leave with a legacy of three rings in four years.

Bridget Sloan’s legacy of three titles in three years continues.

McMurtry and her fellow freshmen’s legacy begins with a title of their own.

Those are great accomplishments.

But few things will match the accomplishment of what was overcome this season.

"This championship will obviously have a very special place in my heart," Sloan said.

 Follow Graham Hack on Twitter @graham_hack24

Florida junior all-arounder Bridget Sloan and freshman all-arounder Alex McMurtry celebrate after competeing on vault during the 2015 NCAA gymnastics championships on Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas.

Support your local paper
Donate Today
The Independent Florida Alligator has been independent of the university since 1971, your donation today could help #SaveStudentNewsrooms. Please consider giving today.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Independent Florida Alligator and Campus Communications, Inc.