In the aftermath of a heartbreaker in Corvallis, Oregon, coach Jenny Rowland was shocked.
Florida, the No. 4 team in the nation and the regular season SEC champion, found itself heading home far earlier than expected when it placed third in the NCAA Corvallis Regional finals and failed to qualify for the NCAA Championships. The loss came in part due to back-to-back falls off the balance beam to start the meet.
“This was not a night that I foresaw coming whatsoever,” Rowland said in a release. “This team has been confident and consistent throughout the season.”
The last time the Gators missed the NCAA Championships was in 2000, when they placed third in the SEC Championships and missed out on NCAAs by five hundredths of a point. While it’s a surprise that a team like UF missed the NCAA Championships — especially since it was No. 4 in the nation — the prophecy had built itself up all season.
It was a top three team in the nation in every event but the vault, finishing eighth in that category. The Gators made few mistakes across their meets while slipping by lesser opponents, but those mistakes added up when they needed good performances, such as the meet on Saturday and the SEC Championships last month.
The team will lose just two seniors next year in Amanda Cheney and Alicia Boren. Cheney was rarely in the lineup this year, but Boren was an integral piece at every meet she competed in. Boren, along with three other UF gymnasts, will still head to Fort Worth, Texas, as individual competitors at the NCAA Championships.
Boren’s departure may leave a ripple, but Florida has plenty to be excited about in regard to its returning gymnasts.
Freshman Trinity Thomas was the team’s most dominant gymnast. She was awarded the SEC Freshman of the Year award and was honored with four All-American nods on the all-around, beam, bars and floor, the nation’s leading freshman total.
This season also saw the rise of freshman Savannah Schoenherr, who started the year with poor vault scores but later became an anchor on the vault and bars. UF has also had either the No. 1 or No. 2 recruiting class in the nation nine of the last 10 years, and its recruiting power is likely to bring in more superstars in 2020.
Aside from returning freshmen, the Gators also expect to return a few gymnasts who have already served in leadership roles, such as sophomore Alyssa Baumann and juniors Rachel Gowey and Amelia Hundley. Any of them could fill the void left by Boren and guide the incoming recruiting class to the success this year’s freshman class displayed.
While there will be new additions to UF’s roster that didn’t experience the heartbreak in Corvallis, Oregon, there will be many on the roster who did. Rowland plans to use the missed opportunity to Florida’s advantage as it readies for a title run next year.
“We will learn from this experience, as it will sting for quite a while,” Rowland said. “This is a team with a lot of heart and pride. I know they will use this to get better.”
Follow River Wells on Twitter @riverhwells and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UF gymnast Trinity Thomas was named the SEC Freshman of the Year and was honored with four All-American nods on the all-around, beam, bars and floor.