When the No. 5 Gators enter Penn State's Rec Hall in University Park, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, they will be looking to advance to the NCAA Championships for the 36th time in 37 years.
Coming off a disappointing third-place finish at the SEC Championships, the Gators’ gaze is set on one of the two qualifying spots to be won at the NCAA Regionals this weekend.
“Everybody knows you’ve gotta be on your game,” coach Jenny Rowland said. “One of the great qualities this team has is they are very resilient. They are able to take away, learn something positive, let it behind and move forward.”
The moment Rowland is excited to see her team bounce back from is Florida’s floor performance at the SECs that resulted in a season low floor score of 48.400. The total was a result of two slipups by freshman Megan Skaggs and senior Alex McMurtry in the event on March 24.
“It was an error that we don't see happen too much in the gym,” Rowland said. “The entire team on floor learned something from it and took away confidence.”
Coming out of the SECs, UF rearranged its focus to the more minute details it missed in its first postseason meet. This included an intra-squad practice during the two-week break between the SECs and NCAA regionals, where the Gators focused on landings and minor changes to their form. The team had to complete certain assignments, such as sticking a specific number of dismounts, in order to move on to the next event. As they prepare to take on regional challengers No. 8 Washington, No. 17 Arizona State, West Virginia, Penn State and New Hampshire, the Gators are letting the pressure sink in.
“We’ve been working on the small details: the handstands, the sticks, good form,” sophomore Rachel Gowey said. “Putting the pressure on it helped us.”
UF brings five gymnasts who earned NACGC regular season All-America honors. This includes McMurtry’s first-team honors (vault, bars, beam) and junior Alicia Boren’s second-team honors (all-around, beam, floor). Second-team honors were also allotted to freshman Alyssa Baumann on beam, Gowey on beam and senior Rachel Slocum on vault.
Florida will need to finish in the top two to make an appearance at the NCAA Championships on April 20. It kicks off regional action at 4 p.m.
“We go in with one job,” Boren said. “To do our best and to focus on ourselves because if we’re normal, we know that we’re capable of so much.”
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NACGC second-team All-American Rachel Gowey said practices leading up to the NCAA Regional Championships have been intense. “Putting the pressure on it helped us," she said.