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Thursday, December 01, 2022

A come-from-behind victory sends Gators gymnastics to the national finals

Florida looks to claim its first national title since going back-to-back in 2014-15

Florida Gators gymnastics is moving on to the NCAA Finals Saturday after a usual strong performance from senior Trinity Thomas.
Florida Gators gymnastics is moving on to the NCAA Finals Saturday after a usual strong performance from senior Trinity Thomas.

Under the lights in Fort Worth, Texas, senior Trinity Thomas glided across the floor, tumbled with power and stuck her landings. 

Thomas and the coaches watched the scoreboards, anticipating a desperate boost and the first perfect score for a Gator on floor at the national championships. 

The judges made their decision: a perfect 10.

The York, Pennsylvania, native won the all-around with a massive 39.812 taking home titles for bars and floor. 

The No. 2 Gators got off to a rocky start in Dickies Arena Thursday night. From falls to delays, Florida persevered to make it to the finals. 

UF had to count two scores under 9.800 in its opening rotation on vault. Seniors Nya Reed and Savannah Schoenherr took large steps forward on their landings, generating scores of 9.775 and 9.762 respectively. 

The Gators looked to build momentum in rotation two, but faltered as freshman Sloane Blakely led off. She couldn’t hold on to her full pirouette and came off the bar. Blakely composed herself, rechalked her hands and ended with a double front and a hop forward. Her faulty routine resulted in a 9.150.

Graduate student Megan Skaggs, freshman Riley McCusker and Schoenherr pulled it together for Florida and started posting the scores Gator Nation is used to seeing. 

Just as Florida was picking up steam and settling in, there was a delay as the bar judges raised a red flag to pause the competition. The podium was looked over and checked underneath. Thomas and freshman Leanne Wong had a 30-second rewarm-up after the apparatus was cleared. 

Thomas remained calm and composed as she hit her routine, finishing with a stuck double-layout to score a 9.975. Wong followed suit with a college stick to earn a 9.912. 

At the halfway mark, No. 7 Auburn had overtaken No. 3 Michigan for the top spot, and UF sat in third trailing by .337. 

The Gators headed to beam to showcase their elite lineup. 

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Skaggs opened up with a solid 9.912. Blakely and senior Leah Clapper earned 9.900s. Thomas was Florida’s best with a 9.937 after a perfectly stuck side aerial to full dismount. 

The Gators made up for the uncharacteristic beginning and shot to second place after the third rotation trailing the Tigers by just .175. 

The Wolverines plummeted to last place after having to count a fall on the bars and weren’t able to recover from the huge hit to their score sheet. No. 11 Missouri coasted all evening, but couldn’t compete with its top-10 opponents. 

The Gators excelled in their floor routines with no score lower than 9.937 to stamp a ticket to the National Championship Finals. Thomas’ perfect score was her sixth on floor this season. Wong turned in a 9.950, and Reed earned a 9.925. 

Skaggs led off three of the four events and managed to claim bronze in the all-around with a score of 39.662. 

Although not much seemed to go UF’s way most of the night, it managed to pull away with the top score of 197.975.  Florida aims to win its first national title since 2015.

“We talked about taking small bites today and not looking at the huge picture of having to advance,” head coach Jenny Rowland said. “I'm really proud of this team. Really great fight, great heart all the way through."

No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 4 Utah and SEC rival Auburn will join Florida in Saturday’s finale in Fort Worth, Texas, at 1 p.m. The meet will be nationally broadcast on ABC. 

Contact Madeline Lawson at mlawson@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @MadsLaws.

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