Eight years is a long time.
It’s two full Presidential terms.
Eight years is also how long its been since the Gators gymnastics team has hosted a tri-meet.
On Friday night, though, that drought will come to an end when the No. 4 Denver and No. 20 Iowa State gymnastics team travel to Gainesville to take on the No. 2 Gators.
The meet will begin at 6:45 p.m. and can be seen on SEC Network+ if you can’t make it to the O’Dome. It is the nation’s only meet between two top-10 teams this weekend. In their last tri-meet the Gators finished first, ahead of Maryland and Bridgeport.
Revenge will be on the minds of UF (4-0) as it welcomes the Pioneers (9-1). Last season, Denver won the NCAA Corvallis Regional, while Florida finished third and saw its season come to an end. The only loss it has suffered so far this season was to No. 1 Oklahoma on Jan. 25.
The Pioneers are coached by Melissa Kutcher-Reinhart, a former Gator who was part of Florida’s SEC Champion 1989 squad and are led by senior Maddie Karr and junior Lynnzee Brown. Brown ended last season finishing in a four-way tie with then-Florida senior Alicia Boren for the floor exercise title.
The Cyclones (4-3) have beaten two ranked teams this season – then No. 11 Western Michigan and then No. 24 West Virginia. They have also lost to three ranked teams this season and are amid a six-meet road streak. This is their first meeting with the Gators since 2009.
Florida enters tonight coming off a road win against No. 12 Kentucky. The Gators’ point total (197.80) is fourth in the nation this season.
For the second-straight week, sophomore Trinity Thomas posted the country’s highest all-around score (39.725). She won titles on the bars, beam and floor. For her performance, she was rewarded with her third SEC Gymnast of the week honor this season.
“She’s really settling in and owning her gymnastics,” coach Jenny Rowland said. “She’s a lot more confident this season compared to last season.”
Payton Richards was another star against the Wildcats. The freshman won her first collegiate event title on the vault (9.925). UF’s vault score (49.475) was a season-high.
“It’s almost a dream come true to come here and be competing this much,” Richards said. “Being with the team has just been amazing.”
Rowland is excited for fans to see something new.
“It’s a little bit different, but I think they (Gator fans) are going to thoroughly enjoy the atmosphere in the O’Dome,” Rowland said. “It’s a little faster paced, and you are going to be seeing a lot of great gymnastics.”
Follow Noah Ram on Twitter @noah_ram1. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.