The last piece of the massive Florida gymnastics puzzle clicked into place when senior Alyssa Baumann announced her decision to return for a fifth year May 21.
It’s a significant moment for the 2022 Gators. Every major contributor from 2021 would suit up again for coach Jenny Rowland, as well as five highly touted freshmen. Baumann’s return cemented the Gators’ already strong odds to win a fourth national championship.
Baumann sat down with the media to discuss her return Tuesday.
She believes the potential for next year’s team is through the roof because of the freshmen, her and classmate Megan Skaggs’ return.
“I’m really excited for possibly five new freshmen coming in, and they’re all phenomenal,” she said. “Lineups are definitely going to be tricky, and it’s going to be hard to make them, which is going to push the team a lot more.”
The Dallas, Texas, native added she looks forward to being a mentor for the younger Florida gymnasts to look up to.
Baumann said the idea of returning collected dust in the back of her mind when the NCAA announced seniors would be granted a fifth year.
“I didn’t want to shut it down right away, but I also knew that I'm not getting any younger,” she said. “I wanted to see how the season and how my body felt and if I felt fulfilled at the end of the season.”
Baumann mentioned it to the coaching staff but told them she wanted to focus on the current season.
One of her biggest concerns about one more season revolved around her 23 year-old body. Gymnastics demands so much physically from its contestants and forces many to retire as teenagers because of the wear and tear their bodies endure.
Baumann also had to clear the hurdle of getting into graduate school. She looked to obtain a master’s degree in business management.
Once she found out that she was accepted into graduate school, Baumann then finally allowed herself to fully consider the idea of another year of gymnastics.
Baumann shares similar goals to most of her teammates as she enters her final season: win an SEC Championship and a national championship. Individually, Baumann wants to record her first perfect score of 10,where she has been within .025 points of excellence nine times.
With Baumann’s announcement to return, the pressure runs high for Florida and coach Rowland to score another title.
Contact Zachary Huber at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @zacharyahuber