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Monday, February 26, 2024
<p>UF coach Jenny Rowland applauds her gymnasts during Florida’s win against Alabama on Jan. 29, 2016, in the O’Connell Center.</p>

UF coach Jenny Rowland applauds her gymnasts during Florida’s win against Alabama on Jan. 29, 2016, in the O’Connell Center.

The last time Florida hosted Auburn, UF coach Jenny Rowland was there.

But she wore different shades of orange and blue.

On that night in 2015, Florida dominated Auburn 197.20-195.65.

Now, nearly two years later, the Gators’ second-year coach has the opportunity to welcome her former team into her new home during Florida’s Link to Pink meet on Friday at the O’Connell Center.

This time around, however, she wants to be on the winning side of the meet.

“I am really excited to be hosting Auburn,” Rowland said. “I have a wonderful relationship with (the) staff still. … (I’m) looking forward to a good, healthy rival.”

Prior to UF, Rowland served as an assistant and associate head coach for the Tigers from 2010-2015.

She was brought in when current Auburn head coach Jeff Graba was hired in 2010 and helped him lead the team to five straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including a trip to the NCAA Super Six for the first time in 22 years.

So Friday’s meet will not only be a reunion against some of her former athletes, but a chance for Rowland to get a win over her former boss for the second straight year.

The last time the Gators lost to Auburn in the regular season was 1993.

“Jeff of all people knows how competitive I am,” Rowland said. “And that is not any different this next Friday. You know what, I have the utmost admiration for him, but at the same time we have been preparing for a successful season and training day in and day out for a good meet this Friday.”

No. 3 Florida enters the meet coming off three straight wins against N.C. State, Kentucky and North Carolina, while Auburn has dropped its first three.

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The Gators are hoping to make it four.

And though the season is still young, Rowland is pleased with her team's performance at this point.

“(I’m) ecstatic,” Rowland said. “Really, our goal was to get out on a strong note. The girls are very determined, they are very focused. We have a lot of new faces on the team, so that was something that we knew was going to be a little bit different this season," Rowland said.

"We have a younger team, but the freshmen really have come in and stepped up.”

Contact Lauren Staff at lstaff@alligator.org and follow her on Twitter @lstaff27.

UF coach Jenny Rowland applauds her gymnasts during Florida’s win against Alabama on Jan. 29, 2016, in the O’Connell Center.

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