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Wednesday, February 28, 2024
<p>Bridget Sloan celebrates after her vault&nbsp;during the NCAA Gymnastics Super Six on April 16, 2016, in Fort Worth, Texas.</p>

Bridget Sloan celebrates after her vault during the NCAA Gymnastics Super Six on April 16, 2016, in Fort Worth, Texas.

Bridget Sloan dismounted from the higher uneven parallel bar.

After flipping through the air twice and sticking the landing — holding her pose for an extra second for emphasis — she let out a yell of excitement before celebrating with her teammates and coaches.

And then, it hit her.

Her gymnastics career had come to an end.

While the Florida gymnastics team finished fourth at the NCAA Super Six on Saturday and saw its four-peat hopes crumble at the hands of the Oklahoma Sooners, Sloan capped her career the only way she knew how: on top.

"I’ve known this time was going to come," Sloan said, "and I just wanted to have the time of my life."

In her final competitive gymnastics meet, Sloan posted at least a 9.9 in three of four events — including a meet-high 9.9375 on her final bars routine — en route to a first-place 39.65 all-around score.

From start to finish, from lifting herself onto the balance beam to hugging first-year UF head coach Jenny Rowland after finishing her bars routine, Saturday’s performance epitomized the energy Sloan put on display her entire career.

"I just came in and I knew what I wanted," Sloan said. "I’ve always been an athlete that once I know what I want, I’m going to go get it."

Her whole career, the accolades rolled in.

A silver medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

An all-around title at the 2009 World Championships.

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Nine NCAA titles — three team trophies and six individual honors — and eight perfect 10s over her four years at UF.

Yet while the awards and honors point to Sloan, the senior points to her supporting cast as a large reason for her success.

"I personally couldn’t ask for a better team to surround myself with," Sloan said.

"It’s an honor being a part of their team."

And now, the Gators face the task of replacing her and the rest of the senior class in Bridgette Caquatto, Bianca Dancose-Giambattisto and Morgan Frazier, a quartet of gymnasts who each brought something different to the table.

Caquatto anchored Florida’s floor lineup for three seasons and clinched the Gators’ second consecutive national title in 2014 with a then-career-high-tying 9.95.

Dancose-Giambattisto served as a rock on the bars rotation, competing in the event in all but the first two meets of her Florida career.

Frazier worked as a leader from the sideline, undeterred by a foot injury that kept her off the mat during her four years.

And then there’s Sloan, the 31-time All-American (16 NCAAs; 15 regular season) whose name sits atop just about every UF gymnastics record.

"I think the senior class in general brought a leadership to this team that really helped form and make this team what it was this year," Rowland said.

Florida has the talent to make another run without them, though.

The duo of Kennedy Baker and Alex McMurtry head into their junior years, poised to make a another push.

Alicia Boren competed as an all-arounder in 13 meets as a freshman.

And Peyton Ernst was a steady contributor on beam in her first year.

Junior Claire Boyce, who sat out this season with a hip injury, returns to the lineup for her final season and another freshman class looking to make an immediate impact is coming in.

"Losing (the seniors), we will take a hit," Rowland said.

"However, they have taught all of their other team members how to be leaders themselves."

It’s the end of the road for Sloan, but she knows this isn’t the end for the Gators.

"I told them to go out there and kick butt next year," Sloan said. "Pretend I’m yelling at them, in their face, telling them to get out there and just have fun. I think this is going to change a lot for Florida."

 Contact Jordan McPherson at jmcpherson@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @J_McPherson1126

Bridget Sloan celebrates after her vault during the NCAA Gymnastics Super Six on April 16, 2016, in Fort Worth, Texas.

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