Senior Alyssa Baumann spun around on one foot on the balance beam and carried out a switch leap. Before she turned to finish her exercise, Baumann brushed powder off herself, flicked it away and shushed the circus-like crowd at the SEC Championship.
She ran across the beam and twisted through the air and stuck the landing. Baumann screamed, leaped and smiled as she pointed at coach Jenny Rowland in celebration.
Baumann scored a 9.95 and became the first gymnast in the SEC Championship meet history to win three beam titles.
The Gators will need strong efforts from their SEC beam champs to advance to the NCAA Regional Final in Fort Worth, Texas, after they finished third at SECs. Florida heads to Athens, Georgia, to compete in the second round of NCAA Regionals Friday at 7 p.m.
Baumann wasn’t the only Gator to bring home hardware.
Freshman Ellie Lazzari netted a 9.95, too. She screamed “Let’s go!” after she hit her landing and darted toward Florida’s corral to high-five each teammate. Baumann and Lazzari shared the title with Alabama’s Lexi Graber and Luisa Blanco.
The team held a meeting during its first practice after SECs, Baumann said, and discussed what needed to change before regionals. They admitted that they were too complacent at practices the last few weeks of the season.
“Moving forward, we want to make sure that every day we come into practice and we're all in and we're more present,” she said.
Junior Leah Clapper added that the setback in Huntsville, Alabama, “lit a fire” under them. The squad rediscovered their mojo after several intense practices.
Even while star gymnast junior Trinity Thomas only competed on bars at SECs, Rowland still isn’t sure if she will compete in every event. She said Thomas would perform in the bars lineup.
This is the second season the NCAA used its current postseason format. Nine teams compete at each regional site. The lowest two seeds face off in the first round, and the winner of that meet advances to the second round.
The remaining eight teams clash in quad-meets, and the top two teams from each meet proceed to the Regional Final held Saturday.
Seven Florida gymnasts collected a nation-high 13 Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association All-America honors. Lazzari was named first-team beam, and Baumann finished second-team beam and on the floor exercise. Junior Trinity Thomas made either team on every event, including the all-around.
Senior Megan Skaggs was tabbed second-team all-around and uneven bars. Junior Savannah Schoenherr garnered second-team on the vault exercise. Juniors Nya Reed and Clapper were tagged second-team floor and first-team beam.
Rowland received her second consecutive SEC Coach of the Year award as she led Florida to an undefeated regular season.
The Gators sat first overall in the Road to Nationals the entire season. They fell to No. 4 on vault and No. 5 on bars but still claim the top spot on beam and floor.
The action kicks off at 7 p.m. and will stream on ESPN3.
Contact Zachary Huber at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @zacharyahuber