Jenny Rowland was all smiles in the Florida gymnastics team’s practice facility Tuesday morning. Her excitement about returning home for the Gators’ sixth match of the season was evident as she laughed and joked with reporters.
Her demeanor, however, took on a more serious tone when she talked about the chemistry and dedication of her team.
Alex McMurtry was more than ready. She had just recorded her first ever 10.0 on balance beam…
“Everybody’s ready,” Rowland said. “Everybody’s willing to do whatever it takes for the team.”
No. 5 Florida will take on No. 9 Alabama tonight at home with the Gators competing in the nation’s top gymnastics dual meet of the weekend.
UF is on a three-match win streak and its second SEC victory of the season. In the Gators’ last meet on Feb. 2, they defeated then-No. 17 Auburn 197.400-197.000 at Auburn Arena.
“There’s just one thing that we need to improve on that I saw last competition and it’s our stuck landings,” Rowland said. “We gave away over a point in stuck landings. That’s something I feel can easily be fixed.”
Alabama and Florida will compete in a top-10 matchup for the 55th consecutive time. When the teams met in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, last year, the Gators returned home with a 197.825-197.425 loss to the Crimson Tide. A month later on March 18 at the SEC Championships, the Gators traveled to neutral ground with a renewed passion and took Alabama down by a .425 margin.
“‘Bama’s always been a great team, so we know it’s hard to go to ‘Bama with thousands of their fans,” senior Alex McMurtry said. “I think it’s just easier on home turf and we have that momentum.”
Alabama returns to action off a home win over then-No. 8 Arkansas 197.000–196.35.
Both the Gators and the Crimson Tide bring a combined total of three gymnasts who posted a 10.0 in the 2017 season. This includes senior Kiana Winston for Alabama, and seniors Kennedy Baker and McMurtry for Florida. McMurtry recorded a 10.0 on beam against No. 1 Oklahoma on Jan. 26 to become the second Gator to post perfect scores in each event. She isn’t letting her own achievements or the team’s top-5 national ranking get to her head.
“We try not to pay attention too much to rankings,” McMurtry said. “We know we’re one of the top teams in the country, and that’s just reinforcing it.”
Her fellow senior Rachel Slocum has her mind set on less concrete matters and looks forward to competing in front of what could potentially be the Gators’ third O’Connell Center sellout in program history.
“Can’t wait to have a hopefully, crossed fingers, another sellout crowd,” Slocum said. “(We) definitely feed off that energy.”