With bated breath, the Florida gymnastics team huddled together, anticipating the final scores to be announced. Head coach Jenny Rowland encouraged her team and prepared them for the judges' decision.
The final judgment was in and it didn’t favor the Gators.
Oklahoma celebrated and embraced while Florida was left shellshocked.
After a remarkable 2022 season, the Florida Gators came up short when it mattered most.
It all came down to No. 1 Oklahoma and No. 2 Florida in the final rotation. Separated by just .200, the Gators needed every floor routine to hit.
Exquisite leap sequences and beautiful tumbling passes earned graduate student Alyssa Baumann and freshman Leanne Wong 9.950’s.
Senior Nya Reed was awarded a 9.912 after exploding into her double layout and drilling the landing.
Florida was gaining on Oklahoma.
The Sooners were unfazed, though, as senior Olivia Trautman and sophomore Katherine Levasseur picked up a pair of 9.900s on the balance beam.
Trinity Thomas wasn’t going down without a fight.
The senior floated through her routine. With great amplitude in her dance series and stuck landings, Thomas posted her stunning 12th perfect score of the season. Florida’s star had given fans a glimmer of hope.
The top two teams in the nation were down to their last routines.
Junior Peyton Richards anchored for the Gators and put up a 9.900. Meanwhile, Oklahoma’s junior Regan Smith needed a 9.962 on beam to clinch the title — she hit it.
The Sooners bested the undefeated Gators 198.200-198.087. It was a fight until the last landing.
Thomas won the all-around with a 39.862 which equaled the second-highest ever in the NCAA finals. She also claimed the vault and floor titles and a share on bars with Oklahoma freshman Danielle Sievers.
“My team is absolutely incredible and nobody knows that better than we do,” Thomas said. “I couldn’t be more proud.”
Wong had great form in the air and a tiny hop on her landing to earn a 9.912. Thomas stuck a massive Yurchenko 1 ½ with great shape in the air for a 9.987.
Nya Reed under-rotated and stumbled back resulting in a dropped score of 9.700. Richards anchored the event with her first vault of the season. She threw a clean Yurchenko 1 ½ and had a small hop on the landing for a 9.812.
Oklahoma started the night on floor. With two falls in the event, the Sooners picked up their lowest score on the exercise this season and sank to last place in the standings after the first rotation.
With the Olympic rotation, the Gators headed to bars next and looked to build momentum.
Freshman Sloane Blakely redeemed herself from losing her grip and coming off the bar Thursday night. With strong handstands and a solid Maloney to Pak, she rebounded with a 9.837.
Senior Savannah Schoenherr showcased excellent form in the air and stuck her double front with a half landing to earn a 9.925. Thomas glided from the low to high bar with her feet glued together. She drilled the double-back layout dismount for a 9.975.
At the halfway point, UF crept closer to the top spot and sat just .100 behind No. 4 Utah.
Oklahoma, knowing they had ground to makeup, went lights-out on vault and bars. A 49.725 became OU’s highest vault score in an NCAA championship meet. Followed up by 49.725 on bars, its highest mark in an NCAA championship event.
Florida took to beam in rotation three.
Graduate student Megan Skaggs was dialed in and finished each element through to her fingertips. She hit her side aerial layout full dismount for a 9.900. Baumann was picture perfect in her leap jumps and attacked the routine. Her feet shuffled the slightest amount on her roundoff 1 ½ to earn a 9.912.
Senior Leah Clapper smiled throughout her entire routine. She stuck her side aerial back full with a small swing of the arms to generate a 9.925.
The Gators ended the afternoon on floor.
Thomas made her mark, a perfect score on the exercise, something she did in every post-season meet this year.
“To go the whole regular season undefeated, win the SEC Championship and finish second,” Baumann said. “I mean, that’s pretty good.”
No. 4 Utah led after the first two rotations, but couldn’t keep its pace on vault and bars. The Utes closed out the night with a third-place finish of 197.750.
SEC rival No. 7 Auburn finished fourth with 197.350.
Oklahoma’s come-from-behind performance was just .112 better than Florida.
Rowland isn’t dwelling on the runner-up finish.
“The future is bright.”
Contact Madeline Lawson at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @MadsLaws.