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Monday, April 22, 2024

No. 5 Gators gymnastics set for biggest meet of the season against No. 2 LSU

The next two meets determine Florida’s shot for SEC Championships

Senior Victoria Nguyen performs her vault routine in the Gators gymnastics'
Hype Night on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023.
Senior Victoria Nguyen performs her vault routine in the Gators gymnastics' Hype Night on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023.

The No. 5 Florida Gators gymnastics team will take on the No. 2 Louisiana State Tigers Friday evening in the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. This meet will be the 12th consecutive time their annual matchup is in the nation's top-10 ranking. 

Florida and LSU are the only two teams in the SEC continuously in line for the conference championship trophy. With the season coming to a close, UF, LSU and Kentucky are currently tied with 4-1 records. 

"This team's mindset is very ambitious, why not an upset?" Florida head coach Jenny Rowland said. "We always love a good challenge, and our challenge is to control our controllables and do what we have been doing."

Friday's meet features five gymnasts who earned perfect scores this season. The Tigers will bring in four gymnasts, while UF has junior Leanne Wong, who recorded her perfect 10 on  bars against Arkansas Feb. 9. 

UF graduate student Payton Richards said the LSU rivalry is her favorite meet of the season. 

"It's a special meet for me because back in my freshman year, it was the first meet that I competed all-around in," Richards said. "We are looking forward to a great Friday night."

Florida is currently one of the only teams in the country to improve its overall score each week during the season. 

While the Gators have excelled in their vault performances this season, they have struggled to make stuck landings. However, with other prominent apparatus performances, Florida has survived some meets, scraping by its opponents.

With LSU's strength, the Gators will have to hone in on their landing techniques to pull off the upset Friday. 

"The Gators have a very strong vault team, no doubt," Rowland said. "Sometimes when one enhances those strong points such as not sticking, it tends not to get any better."

As a coach, Rowland and her staff help the team control their technique and energy when competing in one event, working to stick a landing, she said. The Gators have shown they are capable of this in each meet.  

With three weeks until the SEC Championships, each meet for Florida will be fueled with intensity. UF has won the SEC the past five years, and with its diverse group of talent, it has a shot at winning again this year. 

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"It is probably the most fun and exciting competition of the season," Rowland said. "It's a time to shine on the podium and for the Gators."

Contact Alyssa Britton-Harr at Follow her on Twitter @abrittonharr.

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Alyssa Britton-Harr

Alyssa Britton-Harr is a second-year journalism major and a sports reporter for The Alligator. In her free time, she enjoys cheering on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and spending time with her friends. 

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