Florida’s team theme in 2016 was, “You are destined to go far.”
And they took it seriously.
That group went all the way to the end and was one of six teams that competed in the NCAA Championship.
Now, preseason No. 5 Florida, 265 days removed from that last meet, has the opportunity to continue its story on Sunday when it travels to N.C. State to open the 2017 season.
For the first time, the Gators will see what the team looks like in an authentic meet environment, where results really count.
“It’s just good to see where we have come throughout preseason,” junior Alex McMurtry said.
“We have been working for five months to show, even (in) our first meet, what we are ready for. So I think that is what it’s all about: getting our nerves out, having fun and showing what it is like for the whole season.”
This season, Florida will get back its sole senior, Claire Boyce, after an offseason hip surgery kept her out her last year, forcing her to watch her team from the sidelines.
“Preseason was long but really fun, and I’m excited to get this season underway,” Boyce said.
“I have worked really hard to come back and my team has been there to support me and so have my coaches. And so I’m really excited to be able to come back from the injury and compete my last year.”
Boyce, along with juniors Kennedy Baker, Grace McLaughlin, and McMurtry have led their underclassmen teammates in the offseason and are now ready to start the season off right.
Though their first meet may be on the road, the team is also looking forward to competing in the newly renovated Exactech Arena at the O’Connell Center after nearly a year of construction.
“I get goosebumps every time I walk in,” second-year Florida coach Jenny Rowland said.
“It’s an amazing experience already. I think the fans are going to be really excited.”
And while the Gators are preparing for a long season, they aren’t overlooking the importance of their first meet against the Wolfpack on Sunday.
“The first meet, you have always got nerves, definitely a meet that we always learn from,” Rowland said.
“The girls are prepared. They are ready to go. The nerves will be there, but I think it will be a lot of fun.”
Alex McMurtry Gator Chomps during her floor exercise routine during the NCAA Gymnastics Super Six on April 16, 2016, in Fort Worth, Texas.