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Saturday, May 18, 2024

“Stick chain” gives Florida extra edge

Stuck landings can often be the difference between a good score and a great one

Senior Megan Skaggs was the first Florida gymnast to sport the shiny pendant after she posted a career-high 9.95 on the uneven bars. Photo courtesy of Tiffany Franco.
Senior Megan Skaggs was the first Florida gymnast to sport the shiny pendant after she posted a career-high 9.95 on the uneven bars. Photo courtesy of Tiffany Franco.

The Miami Hurricanes ignited a college football revolution Sept. 2, 2017 against Bethune-Cookman: turnover props.

Late in the fourth quarter, Wildcats quarterback Larry Brihm Jr. heaved a pass to the endzone, but no Bethune-Cookman receiver was there to catch it. Miami defensive back Malek Young intercepted the pass and raced up the field 20 yards. 

Young sprinted to the Hurricanes’ sideline when the play ended. He huddled around his teammates and was crowned with a golden chain studded with orange and green stones, making up their logo. It was the birth of the famously dubbed “turnover chain.”

Its creation sparked a wave across college football. Teams took the idea and made it their own:  Tennessee created the turnover trash can, FSU donned the turnover backpack and Akron sported the turnover pencil.

Now, these props have transferred from the gridiron to the powder-covered mats. The Gators gymnastics team debuted its own version — a glittery “stick chain”— in a blowout victory over Missouri Jan. 29.

Florida gymnasts are given a necklace with an orange-and-blue crested “F” when they achieve a perfect landing during a routine. The new tradition paid off for coach Jenny Rowland, as her team tallied the third-highest score in the nation of 197.850 versus the Tigers.

Senior Megan Skaggs was the first Florida gymnast to sport the shiny pendant after posting a career-high 9.95 on the uneven bars. She dismounted from the top bar, flipped twice through the air and landed with no bobble. 

Her teammates swarmed in celebration. Rowland then walked over from the sideline, placing the necklace on her neck as she screamed with excitement. 

Rowland has concentrated on ensuring the team sticks its landings. Perfect landings are instrumental in a routine because a tenth can be added or deducted based on a landing’s success. 

Since Florida holds four of the top 10 scores in the country, it has the luxury to work on little details like landings. 

Junior Nya Reed and her stepfather created the stick chain. Pulling the bling out after the Arkansas meet on Jan. 22 was the right time, she said, because details held the Gators back. 

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To Reed, it made practice more fun. 

“Practice gets really competitive,” she said. “It’s something that we love because it literally transferred over (to the meet against Missouri.)”

The “F” is carved out of wood and painted orange and blue, Reed said. As a finishing touch, they covered the block “F” in light blue glitter and jewels.

Reed brought the chain first to Rowland and Rowland introduced it to her squad in practice after Florida’s victory over the Razorbacks. 

They split up in two teams during practices and compete for the most stuck landings for bragging rights — and the necklace. To Rowland, a team can only go so far if only the coaches push them. That’s why she encourages her squad to generate organic ideas, like the stick chain, for motivation. 

“It has put a little bit of competition between all of us because we want the stick chain,” freshman Gabrielle Gallentine said. “Everyone wants it. It has put a little bit of pressure on us in practice and competition to stick our landings more.”

It was fun to watch teammates wear the chain after their bars exercise, junior Savannah Schoenherr said. The stuck landings were contagious against the Tigers, and it pushed them to keep the ball rolling. 

“That is like the best thing ever,” she said about wearing the chain. “There’s literally nothing like getting that stick.”

The stick chain encourages her to land perfectly after every routine, Schoenherr said. All in the hopes of sporting it again. 

Contact Zachary Huber at and follow him on Twitter @zacharyahuber

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