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<p>Bridget Sloan performs on the uneven parallel bars during Florida's win against Arkansas on Feb. 12, 2016, in the O'Connell Center.</p>

Bridget Sloan performs on the uneven parallel bars during Florida's win against Arkansas on Feb. 12, 2016, in the O'Connell Center.

Heading into Friday’s meet, the Gators gymnastics team was at a crossroads.

Following last week’s loss to Georgia, the team needed to test its bounce-back ability, and fast. Florida was faced with the possibility of enduring its first regular-season losing streak in 10 years.

It made sure that didn’t happen.

The No. 2-ranked Gators returned to their winning ways in front of an O’Connell Center crowd of 7,621, taking it to No. 9 Arkansas by a final score of 197.450-195.975 at the 10th annual Link to Pink meet.

“I think the team did a great job,” UF coach Jenny Rowland said.

The meet opened with a small surprise. Opting to give senior Bridget Sloan a breather, coach Jenny Rowland handed freshman Ashley Hiller her season debut on the vault.

“I don’t know if you realize this, but I’m, like, really old for a gymnast,” Sloan said, “and resting is definitely necessary. But at the same time, it’s really hard to sit back and watch.

“I wanted to be in (the) vault lineup. I always want to do all-around. I always want to help my team, but at the same time it’s important to rest your body, to let the freshmen step up and fill in.”

Taking Sloan’s place as the anchor of the first rotation, the first-year gymnast out of Houston, Texas, notched a 9.700, equaling senior Bridgette Caquatto’s mark on the apparatus.

“It was amazing just to go out there and make my debut on vault and have fun on floor,” Hiller said.

“It was a lot of fun (competing vault) in the O’Dome for the first time, competing with my team. It was just amazing.”

In the heart of the rotation, freshman Alicia Boren equaled her collegiate high of 9.950, contributing to Florida’s early 49.225-49.075 advantage.

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The Gators widened that gap on the bars. Spurred on by Caquatto’s collegiate-high-tying 9.925, Sloan and sophomore Alex McMurtry posted matching 9.950’s — McMurtry’s collegiate best — tying for the meet’s bars title and closing out a strong second rotation for Florida.

Entering the meet’s halfway intermission, Florida led the Razorbacks by half a point, carrying a 98.700-98.200 lead onto the balance beam.

After last week’s troublesome bout in the event, the Gators came out swinging, powered by McMurtry’s collegiate-best 9.950 and matching 9.875’s from sophomore Ericha Fassbender and Sloan.

Additionally, sophomore Kennedy Baker and Boren — both of whom fell on the apparatus against Georgia on Feb. 5 — put forth solid efforts. Baker notched a 9.825 from the leadoff spot, while Boren posted a 9.875 performing fourth.

Florida lurched ahead to pry open a 148.100-146.875 lead, capitalizing on a pair of Razorback miscues. Both Leah MacMoyle and Samantha Nelson stumbled in the same corner of the mat, pointing to a potential dead spot in the normally spring-loaded surface.

Eventually, MacMoyle suffered a left ankle injury on her final tumbling pass.

The Razorbacks were forced to burn her 8.800, counting Nelson’s 9.625 and Sydney McGlone’s 9.600 towards their final rotational output.

Reverting back to midseason form, the Gators closed out strong, taking the fourth rotation on the strength of Sloan’s event-winning 9.950.

“I love competing, but I really love competing floor at the O’Dome,” she said. “I have yet to not laugh in a floor routine. I love competing, and I think the best way to how much you love competing is to smile and have fun.”

And after suffering a thigh cramp in Florida’s last meet, Sloan dealt with no such injuries on Friday.

“I kinda looked up into the crowd, and I looked at my dad. And he was like — I can just tell he was saying (it) — ’you can do it’ for my last pass,” Sloan said. “And I really wanted to just hold up my hand and be like, ‘dude, (the thigh cramp) is not gonna happen again.’”

When the dust settled, the Gators emerged victorious, sweeping the meet’s awards and remaining undefeated at home.

Performances of note included Boren’s birthday brace, as she clinched both the vault title and her first all-around victory on her 19th birthday.

“Yeah! I don’t think I could ask for a better one,” she said. “It’s fun competing in general, but to be able to compete for other people makes the success that much greater.

“And also, my parents were here, so that was a pretty awesome gift too.”

Contact Alejandro López at alopez@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter  @ajlb95

Bridget Sloan performs on the uneven parallel bars during Florida's win against Arkansas on Feb. 12, 2016, in the O'Connell Center.

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