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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Florida ready to shine at NCAA Championships

Gators hunts for their fourth National Championship

<p>The team counts on Reed, the spark plug for this year’s Gators team, to keep the energy high. Photo from UF-Mizzou meet Jan. 29, 2021. Reed was nearly perfect on the vault Friday night, finishing with a 9.95. </p>

The team counts on Reed, the spark plug for this year’s Gators team, to keep the energy high. Photo from UF-Mizzou meet Jan. 29, 2021. Reed was nearly perfect on the vault Friday night, finishing with a 9.95.

Junior Nya Reed and volunteer assistant coach Jeremy Miranda shook the floor and uneven bars corrals where the teams watched each other perform. They rattled it to the point where it couldn’t withstand the pressure any longer and collapsed at NCAA Regionals

The team counts on Reed, the spark plug for this year’s Gators team, to keep the energy high like a DJ at a party. She experimented with ideas like the “stick chain”  Florida debuted versus Missouri

The Gators will need her spirit to survive the roller coaster of emotions at NCAA Championships this weekend. Florida competes in the NCAA Semifinal Friday at 1 p.m. in Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas. 

“I’m just one of those teammates. I just get so excited for my teammates,” she said. “I just want them to do great and I want the best for all of them.”

Her energy fuels her to put on an electric performance on the floor exercise

But Florida’s Energizer Bunny took a hit early in the NCAA Regional Finals meet. She fell on the vault exercise and suffered a panic attack. Reed darted toward the corner of the corral to catch her breath.

Senior Megan Skaggs walked over to calm her and reminded her how much they rely on her energy. Reed rebounded, delivered on floor and recorded a 9.95. Her score cliched the first-place victory and a spot at NCAA Championships. 

Reaching nationals was a significant moment for Florida because of two consecutive years of  heartache and the challenges UF overcame this season.  

“I was tearing up even when we were on floor,” Skaggs said. “We’ve put so much work in since the last time we were at regionals.”

Florida admitted it had been complacent in practices in the lead-up to the SEC Championship. The team looked at itself in the mirror, didn’t like what it saw and responded with rediscovered energy.

Practices revved up their intensity even after success at regionals, coach Jenny Rowland said. 

The Gators accomplished the feat without star junior Trinity Thomas, who competed in one event: bars. Rowland left the decision to perform all-around Friday up to Thomas even though she trained for all four events in practice. 

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Her absence in the all-around would be a significant loss because she’s regarded as one of the top gymnasts in the country. The York, Pennsylvania, native set the program record for highest all-around score in program history and sits fifth best in NCAA history versus No. 3 LSU

However, Florida will look to survive without junior Sydney Johnson-Scharpf. She ruptured her Achilles in floor warm ups at NCAA Regionals. The junior routinely performed on the balance beam and floor when healthy. 

Junior Halley Taylor, who serves as an alternate on beam and floor, remains questionable with a calf injury. 

Florida also has to elevate its performance to be the last one standing Saturday whether with or without Thomas. It scored a 197.7 in the Regional Final, which sits sixth best out of the eight teams at nationals. 

But the Gators still claim the highest-achieved score in the country with a 198.275 versus Auburn Feb. 26, according to Road to Nationals

Florida’s semifinal kicks off at 1 p.m. and will stream on ESPN2 when it competes versus No. 4 Michigan, No. 5 California and No. 8 Minnesota. 

Contact Zachary Huber at zhuber@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @zacharyahuber



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