Alex McMurtry knew her junior season was going to be different than her first two years in Gainesville.
For one, she was now a veteran on an underclassmen-laden team, tasked with setting the bar high through example.
She also knew coming in that the expectations for her were high, even by her own already-high standards.
As a sophomore, McMurtry was the only athlete in the nation to score two perfect 10s on bars, and her 9.90 collegiate debut on floor equaled the highest in a Gators’ debut.
Attempting to duplicate that level of success in a new season is a daunting task.
But another difference was that for the first time since she arrived in 2015, her team finally had depth.
“That wasn’t really a thing last year,” McMurtry said. “If we had two people out, I think we would have really struggled. This year, we had a lot of new faces and even some freshmen competing for the first time… That is going to contribute big time. I know some people competed last week, and they could possibly be making future lineups. We are just trying to make the strongest possible lineups for the rest of the season.”
While newcomers and returners alike have emerged as contributors for the team, McMurtry has been a constant bright spot for Florida through the first three meets.
The SEC Specialist of the Week swept the titles for all three of the events she competed in Friday against North Carolina, posting two 9.95s on beam and vault and a 9.90 on the bars, respectively.
This season, McMurtry has earned five event titles (three bars, one vault, one beam) and is tied with sophomore Alicia Boren (two beam, one vault, one floor, one all-around) for most titles on the team.
“Alex came into this past season motivated with a little extra will and desire,” Florida coach Jenny Rowland said. “She’s been really focused, very determined, dedicated and improving the little things, which is all she really needed to work on were the little things. It’s been really exciting to see how far she has come this last season.”
McMurtry is yet to compete in the all-around this season because of a lingering back injury. But if all goes according to plan, she will be making her floor season debut within the next few meets.
In the meantime, she will continue to tackle the three events she can contribute on with the grace and fluidity that her teammates say has come to define her routines.
“I think watching her is breathtaking, and it’s amazing,” Boren said.
“I definitely do look up to her. And I competed with her years before we even got her, and I was always like, 'Oh my gosh, that’s the person to beat and everything.' And now to be on the same team with (her) and just to see her practice and everything, she’s just someone to really look up to and strive to be like with her work ethic and attitude.”
Contact Lauren Staff at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @lstaff27.
Alex McMurtry Gator Chomps during her floor exercise routine during the NCAA Gymnastics Super Six on April 16, 2016, in Fort Worth, Texas.