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Thursday, April 25, 2024

SETTING THE BAR: Florida gymnastics three-peats at 2015 NCAA Championships

<p>The Florida gymnastics team celebrates wining the NCAA National Championship on Saturday, April 18, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.</p>

The Florida gymnastics team celebrates wining the NCAA National Championship on Saturday, April 18, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.

For the third-consecutive year, the UF gymnastics team will bring home the national title.

In a competition filled with sensational performances and suffocating pressure, the Gators delivered, winning the 2015 NCAA National Championship Saturday with a score of 197.850, edging out Utah (197.800) by half of a tenth of a point.

Florida finished ahead of third-placed Oklahoma (197.525), Alabama (197.275), Stanford (197.250) and Auburn (195.625).

“It’s still really surreal, of course,” coach Rhonda Faehn said. “(The team) just competed so much tonight, with so much heart, with so much fight.”

Entering the final rotation of the night, the competition was essentially left to be decided between Florida and Utah. The Gators had a 0.150 lead and were competing on bars, while the Utes were competing on vault.

After a decent start, Utah strung together three 9.925s or higher to finish out and posted a massive 49.550 in the event, putting the pressure on Florida.

Simultaneously, the Gators were having an average final event. Four Gator gymnasts had posted 9.850s or lower, meaning the team would need two exceptional performances from junior Bridget Sloan and freshman Alex McMurtry to stay ahead of Utah.

They did just that.

Sloan posted a 9.950, giving Florida a chance. If the freshman scored a 9.9 or higher, Florida would earn at least a share of the title.

No pressure.

But McMurtry was unfazed, performing a perfectly executed routine and sticking the landing.

The team waited for a few moments and looked to the scoreboard. A 9.950 read next to McMurtry’s name, the best bars score of her young career.

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“I didn’t necessarily know what score I had to get,” McMurtry said. “I think that would have made it even harder for me. I knew I had a job to do and I knew my teammates had my back.”

While the competition came down to the final rotation, Florida took control of the meet in the third rotation on floor.

After a mistake-free 49.300 on beam to open and a bye that followed, the Gators posted a 49.650 on floor, the third-highest score in NCAA Championship history in that event. Five Gator gymnasts scored at least a 9.9, including a 9.975 from senior Kytra Hunter and a 9.950 from Sloan.

“I was an absolute incredible floor rotation,” Sloan said. “It might have been the best one we’ve done all season, which if you’re gonna have a season-high rotation score, it better be at NCAAs.

“Job well done.”

Follow Graham Hack on Twitter @graham_hack24

The Florida gymnastics team celebrates wining the NCAA National Championship on Saturday, April 18, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.

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