It came down to the little things in the final vault rotation.
A bounce here. A stumble there.
The Gators gymnastics team had a week to reflect on its regular-season conference title.
In UF gymnastics’ moment of weakness, the LSU Tigers struck swiftly, and a perfect 10 on the floor from the Tigers’ Sarah Finnegan extinguished any remaining hope Florida may have had.
Despite holding the lead in three of the four rotations at the SEC Championships in New Orleans, it was LSU who walked away with the trophy. UF placed second overall in the tournament with a score of 197.750, behind the Tigers (197.900) and in front of the third-place Alabama Crimson Tide.
The Gators took to what is arguably their best event in the bars for the first rotation. The event was highlighted by the recently emerging sophomore Megan Skaggs, who’s 9.925 was the highest score for Florida.
Freshman Savannah Schoenherr and junior Amelia Hundley rounded out the 9.9s, each scoring 9.900 exactly. Although UF’s two all-arounders in senior Alicia Boren and freshman Trinity Thomas are traditionally the highest scorers on the bars, they didn’t hit above the 9.9 mark. Both scored 9.850s. The Gators’ score of 49.425 was enough to take the lead into the second rotation.
Meanwhile, the Tigers ended close behind UF after their vault rotation score of 49.375, which included three scores of 9.900. Florida’s one SEC loss in the regular season, Georgia, ended the first rotation in third place with a 49.050 on the beam, and Kentucky finished last with a 48.625 on the floor.
UF kept the momentum going with its beam rotation. It saw three 9.950s: one from Skaggs, one from sophomore Alyssa Baumann and one from junior Rachel Gowey. When the rotation ended, the Gators held a comfortable lead over the rest of the field with a score of 99.050.
LSU, while having a good rotation on the bars that included a 9.950 from Sarah Finnegan, fell a little further behind Florida when the second rotation ended, hitting the halfway point of the championships with a 98.850.
At the beginning of UF’s floor rotation, it appeared as if Florida was undergoing a lull in its momentum. Skaggs, who appeared poised for a huge night after the first rotations, saw a 9.525 on her routine after a bad stumble. While freshman Nya Reed placed with a 9.750 after landing out of bounds on one of her passes.
Boren and Thomas shifted the Gators’ momentum back to where it was. Boren netted a 9.925, which was quickly followed by a 9.950 from Thomas. UF held fast after its third rotation, heading into the vaults with a 148.475.
LSU remained the only real competitor through three rotations with a 148.300.
The final event for the Gators was the vault, the event in which they’ve been most vulnerable all year, while the Tigers headed into one of their best events on the floor.
Aside from a 9.950 from Thomas, the Gators didn’t get another score over 9.900, and they were forced to keep a 9.775 from Skaggs. They ended with a 197.075, and LSU, who was still on the floor, needed to average 9.900 over its next three routines.
The Tigers did more than that, and after Finnegan’s 10, LSU’s final floor routine from McKenna Kelley served as a victory lap.
Follow River Wells on Twitter @riverhwells and contact him at [email protected].