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Sunday, May 09, 2021

Skaggs returns for fifth year

Florida gets back its most consistent gymnast for 2022

Megan Skaggs performs on the beam in a meet against Kentucky on February 19. The senior announced she would return for a fifth year via Twitter on April 23.
Megan Skaggs performs on the beam in a meet against Kentucky on February 19. The senior announced she would return for a fifth year via Twitter on April 23.

Senior gymnast Megan Skaggs spoke with the media Wednesday for the first time since she announced her intention to return to the Gators for a fifth season on Twitter April 23. 

Her decision to come back strengthens Florida’s bid for a fourth national championship. Skaggs will rejoin a team led by juniors Trinity Thomas, Nya Reed, Savannah Schoenherr and Leah Clapper. 

Skaggs said she darted to coach Jenny Rowland when the NCAA announced it would grant winter athletes an extra year of eligibility on Oct. 14, 2020. She didn’t make anything official then, but she discussed the possibility of a return with the coaching staff. 

She added the Gators’ bittersweet finish at NCAA Championships didn’t influence her choice. 

“If we would’ve gone there and won, I still would have come back,” she said. 

Her love of gymnastics inspired her to come back to Florida the most. The NCAA handed her the opportunity to compete again, and she seized it. 

However, Skaggs said the team needed to do a better job of believing in itself at NCAA Championships.  

“I still will believe that we were the best team out there,” she said. “We just didn’t show up and show who we were on that night.”

In previous years, injuries bogged Skaggs down. But this season, she was the healthiest she’d been during her time at Florida. She took major strides and became a leader for the Gators. 

She emerged as their most consistent contributor. Skaggs recorded career-highs in every event and competed in the all-around 11 out of 13 meets. 

“A lot of it is mental for sure,” she said. “Something I worked on even more than physical training was just staying mentally strong and taking what I would do in practice and focusing on what I’m thinking and carrying that over into the competitions.”

The Marietta, Georgia, native said her strength and her ability to stay healthy were key to her success. She also appreciated the coaches and how they crafted her routines so she could avoid injury. For example, Skaggs only performed two tumbling passes compared to Florida’s typical three on the floor exercise. 

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Rowland wasn’t surprised when Skaggs told her she would return. She said Skaggs could maintain her all-around spot even with UF’s stellar recruiting class. 

Skaggs looks forward to performing in the O’Connell Center center again more than anything. 

“That’s always just a special experience, so I’m really excited for that,” she said. “Just doing gymnastics for one more year and loving it and enjoying it because it is so special.”

With the addition of Skaggs to Florida’s 2022 roster, the Gators sit firmly in the hunt to fight for another title. They also await senior Alyssa Baumann’s decision on whether she will use the extra year of eligibility. 

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

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