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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

No. 4 Gators fall short of gymnastics NCAA title

Sloane Blakely recorded a career-high beam score of a 9.95

Junior Sloane Blakely performs on the uneven bars in the Gators gymnastics' Hype Night on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023.
Junior Sloane Blakely performs on the uneven bars in the Gators gymnastics' Hype Night on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023.

Junior Sloane Blakely brought momentum for the Gators when she reached a career-high beam performance of 9.95. She kept her teammates afloat in the final apparatus of the meet during her floor performance and pulled through until the final moments.

Despite her high-scoring routines, the Gators struggled with executing their landings in every apparatus when the stakes were high.

The flowing intensity in the arena kept the pressure intense while competing with some of the best gymnasts in the country. UF fell behind early and failed to make a comeback to win a national championship.

The No. 4 Florida Gators (29-8, 6-1 SEC) lost to the No. 2 Louisiana State Tigers (31-3, 5-2 SEC), No. 3 California Bears (20-3, 7-0 PAC-12) and the No. 5 Utah Utes (16-4, 6-1 PAC-12) as they placed fourth April 20 in the final round of the NCAA Championships in Fort Worth, Texas, at Dickies Arena.

“[I] am extremely proud, humble and grateful for the opportunity this team put themselves in a position to even be here,” Florida head coach Jenny Rowland said. “It may not have been the exact outcome that we wanted, but sometimes you don't always get what you want.”

LSU came in first (198.2250), California earned second (197.8500), Utah placed third (197.8000) and Florida placed last (197.4375).

UF freshman Skylar Draser ran through her vault routine, executing a clean landing except a deduction of overstepping in the final moment which earned her a 9.875. Senior Victoria Nguyen kept the momentum high, quickly running through her routine and managing to stick her landing to earn a 9.85.

Florida freshman Anya Pilgrim delivered a clean vault routine as she soared high into the air while increasing her height and sticking her landing. However, she overstepped and forced a deduction to earn her a 9.8.

“We might've not been No. 1, but we reached so many goals along the way,” Pilgrim said. “That’s incredible, especially since no one thought we would get this far.”

Freshman Danie Ferris brought the Gators' momentum back into the meet with her 9.9125 score off her strong landing in her vault performance. Junior Leanne Wong ran through her routine but fell short on her landing when she overstepped and came up with her chest too low, recording a 9.8125.

UF finished the first apparatus with an overall 49.2500 score heading to the uneven parallel bars.

Junior Sloane Blakely opened up for the Gators and effortlessly leaped between bars, earning a 9.8625. Nguyen shined in her routine with her flips and turns which allowed her to obtain the perfect dismount and execute a well-structured landing to earn a 9.8750.

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Pilgrim shined on the bars with a double twist landing. She recorded a 9.8875. Draser left the audience impressed after her bars performance where she found her composure and controlled her landing, earning a 9.9.

Wong worked her magic on bars to close out the apparatus, scoring a 9.95 off her almost-perfect landing.

UF finished the second apparatus with a 98.7250 overall score heading to the balance beam.

Draser elegantly glided across the beam, keeping her composure during her dismount which earned her a 9.9. Blakely scored a career-high beam performance with a 9.95.

Nguyen earned a 9.6625 on the beam, wobbling at moments when traveling across the beam. Wong struggled to keep her composure as she lost her balance and fell off the beam, forcing her to restart her performance. She earned a final score of 9.3750.

Lazzari brought the Gators’ momentum back with her stellar beam routine as she managed to obtain a strong landing and earned a 9.85 to close out the apparatus.

“It’s been a long year full of obstacles, adversity, we’ve overcome so much, we've grown, we’ve learned such an incredible amount,” Lazzari said. “We laid it out on the floor and we just showed everyone what it means to be a Gator.”

UF finished with a 147.9625 overall score heading into its final apparatus on the floor.

Nguyen gracefully swept across the floor earning a 9.9125. Lazzari delivered an ecstatic performance with her double twist and turns on the floor, scoring a 9.8825.

Blakely beamed during her floor routine earning a 9.8625 off her performance layout. Wong closed out the final apparatus with a 9.95, but it wasn't enough to make a comeback and win the title.

“Reflecting on a very memorable year and a year filled with peaks, a year filled with valleys and a year that there were so many people who doubted the Gators that they would even be in this position,” Rowland said.

Contact Alyssa Britton-Harr at Follow her on X @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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