The weather outside was cold and icy.
And early on it seemed like the weather rubbed off on the Florida gymnastics team. However, by the end of the meet, it was on fire.
The Gators ignited after a slow start on Friday night and defeated Missouri 196.85-195.60 in their first meet away from the O’Connell Center. That point total was the fourth-highest in a road opener for UF ever. The inclement weather led classes to be canceled at UM and the crowd at the Hearnes Center to be rather small.
The night began for Florida on the uneven bars. No changes were made by coach Jenny Rowland from last week’s win against Arkansas. Junior Megan Skaggs was the leader on the bars for UF, scoring a 9.875 and improving slightly on her bar score last Friday of 9.850. Freshman Payton Richards finished second for UF, scoring a 9.85, the best score of her career.
“I would say the atmosphere [was the biggest difference],” Richards said in a release regarding her first away meet. “Coming in [to the meet] and having my teammates telling and walking me through everything was super helpful.”
The most shocking result from the bars came from sophomore Trinity Thomas, who struggled during her routine and scored a 9.075, which was dropped.
Missouri started on the vaults and the Gators held a 49.125-48.650 lead after one rotation. Despite the lead, Florida left something to be desired on the bars, as it struggled on landings.
"Starting off on bars is an easy event to get tight on,” Rowland said. “We need to start out on a great note and keep the energy going throughout the competition."
The Gators shifted over to the vault, and with the Tigers on the bars, did something they hadn’t done all year: lose a rotation. They scored a 48.925 with sophomore Nya Reed matching her collegiate-best 9.875 to take the vault title for the second-consecutive week. However, Missouri scored a season-best 49.200 on the bars led by freshman Helen Hu’s 9.95, the best bar score of the night. The orange and blue still held a 98.050-97.850 lead after two.
"My focus in practice has been to get the landings because it was a struggle sometimes last year,” Reed said. “I'm trying my hardest to see the landings and so far, so good.”
Florida finally broke out on the floor, scoring a season-high 49.475. Three athletes scored a 9.90 or above with Thomas (9.950) leading the way and junior Alyssa Baumann (9.925) and senior Rachel Gowey (9.90) not far behind. Gowey’s score equaled her collegiate-best in the category.
In the final rotation of the evening on the beams, Thomas won for the second meet in a row with a score of 9.925. She was also the Gators’ only all-arounder, scoring a 38.675 which was well below her score of 39.700 for the previous week. Her wins on beam and floor upped her career win total to 32.
The win kept No. 2 Florida perfect in conference play at 2-0, while No. 19 Missouri fell to 1-3 overall and 0-2 in SEC play. UF is now also 26-1 all-time versus the Tigers.
"They fought hard, but we were too conservative from the get-go,” Rowland said. “That is something we need to improve. First road meet and lessons were learned. It is something we can work on.”
Follow Noah on Twitter @Noah_ram1 and contact him email@example.com.
Noah is a third year journalism-sports and media student from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. He has been with The Alligator since Spring 2019 and has covered men’s and women’s tennis, gymnastics and volleyball. When he isn’t on his beat, Noah is usually sadden over his beloved South Florida sports teams, such as the Heat and Dolphins.