Trinity Thomas was out for vengeance heading into the balance beam exercise after falling two-meets straight on her strongest event.
She was completing her third back aerial last Friday against Arkansas when she lost her balance. She was forced to bend over to grab the beam with both hands to prevent a fall, which is still considered a fall in gymnastics.
She had trouble with the same move versus Georgia, falling again and finishing in disgust.
Thomas wasn’t going to be fooled again versus Missouri.
“You could tell she was on a mission,” coach Jenny Rowland said. “She was a little bit more lighthearted and really just stepping up and doing what she knows how to do in the gym.”
When it came time to complete that dreaded back aerial series, she performed it without a wobble. On the dismount, she stuck the landing to ice the cake. She was met with a thunderous ovation from the O’Connell Center.
Her performance helped her take the all-around meet title and lifted No. 1 Florida (4-0) to a 197.850-194.800 victory over No. 24 Missouri (0-3) Friday night in the O’Dome.
Thomas proved why she is a top-five gymnast on vault against the Tigers, leading the Gators with 9.925. Junior Nya Reed powered over the powdered-covered and maroon-colored vaulting table, taking a slight step forward with her right foot. Even with the misstep on the landing, she finished tied for second with senior Megan Skaggs for Florida, a 9.875. Freshman Ellie Lazzari and Schoenherr rounded out the final scores that counted for UF, recording a 9.850.
Their performances led Florida to register a 49.375 on vault, tied for the second best score of the season. Its season-high of 49.550 was recorded in the season-opener against No. 22 Auburn.
But the party was only getting started for the Gators. Sophomore Payton Richards and freshman Gabrielle Gallentine roared out of the starting blocks on the uneven bars. They both notched a season-high on bars, recording a 9.875 and 9.925. The stuck landings from Richards and Gallentine became contagious like the flu to the rest of the team.
Skaggs followed the duo, dropping the highest score at 9.950. Schoenherr and Thomas tied Gallentine for second for Florida tallying a 9.925, respectively.
The four scores of 9.925 or better pushed coach Jenny Rowland’s squad to a season best score of 49.600 on bars. They entered this meet ranked seventh, their worst ranking of any exercise.
Florida flirted with danger in the third rotation on beam because junior Sydney Johnson-Scharpf fell during her routine.
But it handled the pressure gracefully. Senior Alyssa Baumann recorded the lowest score that counted, a 9.825. Richards finished third, notching a 9.850. Then Florida’s runner-up to Thomas was Skaggs who tallied a 9.900.
The Gators faced more adversity in their last rotation, the floor exercise. After falling on beam, Johnson-Scharpf was a late-scratch from the floor lineup due to muscle tightness, according to Rowland.
However, the remaining gymnasts to perform were resilient. Thomas grabbed the top spot, recording a 9.950. Then, Reed continued her excellence, finishing second and with another score north of 9.9, a 9.925. Skaggs and Richards tied for third, scoring a 9.875.
The Gators score of 49.475 is their best score on floor through their 2021 campaign. Their strong performance also pushed their overall total to 197.850, which is the best score put up across the country. They held the previous high score of 197.500 against Auburn.
It was also a memorable night for Florida athletics because it held its first pride night for any sporting event in UF history.
The meet was also special for Schoenherr because she came out to the world this summer.
“The love and support that my team, Gator nation and my family has been unbelievable and to imagine that I’m here now blows my mind,” she said. “I actually got pretty emotional at the beginning of the meet tonight.”
Florida has a bye week before they travel to the Bayou Feb. 12 to face No. 2 LSU.
Contact Zachary Huber at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @zacharyahuber