Right before senior Rachel Slocum stepped up to the mat for her floor routine during the NCAA Regionals on Saturday, teammate Alex McMurtry ran up to her, grabbed her hands and touched her forehead to Slocum’s. Although it only lasted three seconds, the private moment had a clear effect on Slocum, who went on to claim her first floor title as a Gator.
“Before we go on each other’s events, we always say ‘set me up,’” McMurtry said in a release. “I can’t wait for her to get her confidence back and bring that to nationals.”
Slocum’s 9.900 on floor, along with her second regional win on vault with a score of 9.950, helped push the Gators to a lead they didn’t give up all night. At the end of the meet, UF left University Park, Pennsylvania, as champions of its NCAA regional with a final score of 197.725. The night saw a Gator take each regional title, as well as three Gators turning in a season-best score. With Florida’s top-two finish, it will now advance to the NCAA Championships on April 20.
“It was really good to see the team perform at this level with the nerves and knowing that they have to qualify to nationals,” coach Jenny Rowland said in a release. “They handled everything under pressure very well.”
In addition to Slocum’s two titles on floor and vault, McMurtry took three event titles on bars, beam and all-around. Her 9.975 on bars marked a season best.
McMurtry also took her second NACGC Southeast Region Gymnast of the Year honor. She bounced back after a fall on her floor performance at the SEC Championships on March 24 that brought the team’s total in the routine to a season low of 48.400.
“A good loss is really motivating sometimes and I think SECs did that to us,” McMurtry said. “We got back to the gym and worked our butts off and it obviously showed.”
The Gators now look forward to competing in the Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis, Missouri, for the NCAA Championships. Florida will compete with 11 other teams to win one of six spots to advance to the NCAA Super Six on April 21.
2018 marks the NCAA Championships’ last year using a 12-team field. This year, the SEC brings half of the group: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and LSU.
“We still have a few things we can fix, but we are going to be hungry (for) NCAAs,” Slocum said.
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Senior Rachel Slocum took home an individual title on vault in Florida's first-place finish at the NCAA Regional Championships on Saturday.