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Saturday, October 01, 2022

As season comes to close, Jenny Rowland reflects on success

<p>Bridgett Caquatto performs on floor during Florida's win over North Carolina on March 11, 2016, in the O'Connell Center.</p>

Bridgett Caquatto performs on floor during Florida's win over North Carolina on March 11, 2016, in the O'Connell Center.

About seven months ago, Jenny Rowland made a call.

Introducing herself over FaceTime, she was faced with a group of 14 strangers.

She also faced a lofty challenge.

Somehow, this rookie head coach had to build trust with the Florida gymnastics team.

If her ultimate goal of securing Florida’s fourth consecutive national championship was to ever be realized, she would need to find a way to get through to her inherited roster.

Months later, that journey is finally complete.

"This team has grown in so many different ways. We’ve built relationships, we’ve built trust amongst the team (and) amongst the staff," Rowland said on Monday.

"It’s definitely been a roller coaster ride… It’s been a journey, and really that’s what this year I’ve stressed to this team. ... This is a journey, and (you have to enjoy) each process, or each competition, or each day or each moment. You’re never gonna get these moments back."

This day-by-day approach has come to characterize Rowland’s coaching style. Never demanding perfection, she encourages normalcy.

During one otherwise routine September practice, Rowland clicked on a video.

In it, Kansas State football player Denzel Goolsby discussed his life story, driving his point home with a metaphor.

"He talked about the evolution of the golf ball," Rowland said.

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"In all reality, a golf ball was formed, and it was smooth. It was round, and over time, after the golfers were hitting the golf balls, dents started happening, and they noticed that with every dent that was made in the golf ball, it made the golf ball go farther."

The message resonated with her gymnasts.

Practices ran smoother.

The team came closer together.

An eight-win regular season followed, with back-to-back victories at the Southeastern Conference Championships and the NCAA Minneapolis Regional Championships closely behind.

Now, less than a week from the end of the season and a potential national title, Rowland’s team stands united.

This competition will end the collegiate careers of seniors Bridget Sloan, Bridgette Caquatto, Bianca Dancose-Giambattisto and Morgan Frazier.

In addition, six Gator gymnasts hail from Texas, and friends and family are sure to fill the Fort Worth Convention Center stands come Friday.

And with the national championship on the line, emotions are likely to run high.

Regardless, Rowland’s message remains the same.

"I’m trying to get them to understand that yes, this is the (end) of one journey, but they have many ahead of them, and not to get too wrapped up into it," she said.

"That’s something that we’ve talked a lot about, and, you know what, I told them to, again, enjoy this moment, because you’re never going to get it back again."

Contact Alejandro Lopez at and you can follow him on Twitter @ajlb95

Bridgett Caquatto performs on floor during Florida's win over North Carolina on March 11, 2016, in the O'Connell Center.

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