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Friday, August 19, 2022

Thomas and Wong lead Florida gymnastics to NCAA Championship berth

Florida’s 198.775 is a program record and the third-highest score in NCAA history

<p>Senior Trinity Thomas gives a Gator Chomp during a routine on Feb. 26 against the Oklahoma Sooners. Thomas and the No. 2 Gators dominated Saturday night to earn an NCAA Championship berth.</p>

Senior Trinity Thomas gives a Gator Chomp during a routine on Feb. 26 against the Oklahoma Sooners. Thomas and the No. 2 Gators dominated Saturday night to earn an NCAA Championship berth.

Senior Trinity Thomas’ flawless execution in her opening double layout pass on floor demanded the audience's attention. 

Her effortless combinations guided her into the final tumbling pass, where she floated across Neville Arena and was textbook perfect in her front-full to front layout. 

Thomas picked up the 16th and 17th perfect scores of her career in the dominant performance by the No. 2 Gators at the Auburn Regional final Saturday night, setting a program record and sending them to the NCAA semifinal round in Fort Worth, Texas. 

The 18-time All-American extended her career events record total to 106, and claims sole ownership of third in Florida’s all-around career wins list with 24. 

Thomas secured her first 10 of the night in the opening rotation on floor, making it her fifth perfect score on floor this season and second-consecutive meet with a perfect score. She was awarded her next 10 of the night the following rotation on vault. 

The York, Pennsylvania, native charged down the runway and stuck her Yurchenko 1 ½ to keep Florida in excellent position early on in the meet. The 10 on vault became her eighth perfect score, and leads the nation this season.

“Continuing to believe in myself and trusting myself is my most important thing,” Thomas said. “I focus on the details. I focus on the big things and just literally trusting myself is the thing I can do better.” 

This was also Thomas’ second-consecutive meet with two perfect scores. She earned a 10 on floor and bars in Thursday night’s second-round win.

“Those are the routines that [Thomas] does every day in the gym,” head coach Jenny Rowland said. “It’s so great to see her come out and be so confident in herself and so calm and own her gymnastics.” 

Freshman Leanne Wong is already halfway to a Gym Slam in her first season. She earned her first 10 on bars against Arkansas Jan. 28. Saturday, Wong drilled her vault landing for another perfect score. 

Wong replaced her previous career-high all-around score of 38.850 with a 39.875. Thomas tied her career-high and nation-leading all-around score, 39.900. 

Florida’s massive 198.775 is a school record and the third-highest team total in NCAA history. UCLA and Stanford remain tied with the overall highest score of 198.875. 

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“It just goes to show what 18 individuals who give their heart and soul day in and day out can do,” Rowland said. “So thankful for the staff and for this amazing team to keep pushing themselves to be the best that they can every day.” 

Freshman Sloane Blakely matched her season-high bar score of 9.900, while graduate student Megan Skaggs stuck her routine for a collegiate-best 9.950.

The Gators put their competition to shame, leading No. 7 Auburn by .700 after the third rotation, followed by No. 10 Kentucky (1.100) and No. 15 Denver (1.150). 

UF broke another program record to close out the night with a 49.750 team total on beam. 

Skaggs led off with a 9.925 that would later be dropped because Blakely, Wong, Thomas, graduate student Alyssa Baumann and senior Leah Clapper all earned 9.950s on the apparatus. 

Blakely had excellent elevation on her side aerial to full, sticking the landing. Baumann’s 180 extensions on her leaps and Wong’s breathtaking fluidity stood out amongst the elite Gator performances. 

The night came down to the Wildcats and Tigers fighting for runner-up. Separated by .400 heading into the final rotation, Kentucky needed to hit every performance it had left to book its ticket to the Championship. 

UK senior Arianna Patterson fell in the final pass of her tumbling series on floor. Sophomore Isabella Magnelli and senior Anna Haigis redeemed their teammate by earning 9.900s. Junior Raena Worley tied her season and career-high at 9.975, but it wasn’t enough to topple the Tigers. 

Auburn freshman Suni Lee, who leads the nation on beam, controlled her combinations and connections to earn a 10 on the apparatus. Fifth-year Drew Watson tied an Auburn program-record vault with a 9.975, and the Tigers earned a team total 197.775 to advance. 

Denver turned out some great routines, but it wasn’t enough to stay in contention with the SEC powerhouses. The Pioneers posted a final score of 197.225. 

“We still have more to give,” Rowland said. “We’ve got two more weeks, we keep dancing.” 

The Gators now move to the NCAA Championship semifinal round in Fort Worth, Texas, April 14. Florida will compete in the second semifinal at 6 p.m. against No. 3  Michigan, No. 7 Auburn and No. 11 Missouri. The meet will be broadcasted on ESPN2.

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





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