Trinity Thomas

For Trinity Thomas, it didn’t feel any different.

“I knew it was really good, but I never really know.”

This time, though, it was different.

After “coming up short” 10 times, she finally didn’t.

She finally got the score all gymnasts dream of.

That elusive 10.

Thomas’ 10 on the uneven bars was the highlight, but it was just one of many exceptional moments for the Florida gymnastics team, which picked up its biggest win of the season so far, beating LSU 198.375-197.775 on Friday night at the O’Connell Center.

The No. 2 Gators set so many milestones and records tonight it was almost hard to keep up. Their score was the highest in the nation so far this season.

It was also the third-highest final score in program history, just behind two scores that they had during their 2013 national championship-winning season, and it was the highest score in coach Jenny Rowland’s career.

“It was an incredible night, really just from everybody,” Rowland said. “In all reality, it was a normal practice for this team from what we’ve been seeing on a daily basis.”

The night, as usual for Florida at home, began on the vault. Early on, it was evident that Florida came to play. Sophomore Nya Reed continued to stay hot, notching a career-high score of 9.9 after having tallied a 9.875 the past two meets. However, she wasn’t even its highest scorer; that was freshman Payton Richards, who finished with a 9.925.

Rowland hasn’t been shy to put her faith in Richards so far this season and that was no different this week. In just her third-career meet, Richards was given the all-around start, becoming the first gymnast besides Thomas to start in all four events this season.

“She’s been doing a really great job on floor,” Rowland said. “Within the past couple of weeks, it has really been clicking and it was time to see what she was capable of.”

The Tigers, however, showed on the onset that they came from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on a mission. Last season, the Gators ended their 35-meet home winning streak.

LSU was dominant in its first rotation on the beam, with all five gymnasts scoring at least a 9.85. After the first rotation, LSU held a tight lead, 49.425-49.

UF moved to the bars and took its first lead of the night there. This is where Thomas got her perfect score. Even before Thomas’ 10, Florida had a solid set, with sophomore Savannah Schoenherr scoring a 9.975.

But it was that perfect score that put the Gators on top and was the apex for the sellout crowd at the O’Dome.

“It’s almost like you’re scoring a 10,” junior Alyssa Baumann said regarding Thomas’ score. “I’ve seen Trinity do that bar routine in practice so many times and I was probably more excited than she was.”

One could have wondered if Thomas would have a comedown after climaxing in just the second rotation, but she knew she wouldn’t.

“I was like, ‘Let's get to beams,’ she said. “It was easy for me to be like, ‘Oh yeah, yay okay next set.”’

And on the beams Florida had its best rotation of the night and one of its best in school history. UF scored a 49.675, which tied the highest beam score in program history.

Every gymnast for UF scored a 9.9 or higher, and two – senior Rachel Gowey and Baumann – scored a 9.975. Baumann’s score was all the more impressive considering it came right after LSU’s Sarah Edwards injured her ankle during her floor routine.

“Of course that’s always hard to see,” Baumann said. “But I just tried to stay in my zone and focus.”

Edwards’ injury plus a low score from Reagan Campbell ended up being a death knell for the Tigers. The Gators’ lead grew to more than a half point, 148.725-148.25, heading into the home stretch.

On the floor there was no letdown from Florida. It scored a 49.65, led by Thomas’ 11th career 9.975. Her score was enough to overcome a 10 scored by LSU freshman Kiya Johnson on the beam and give the orange and blue the win.

The margin of victory was rather large given this rivalry’s history. Seventeen of the last 22 meetings between these squads had been decided by a half point and it was UF’s largest regular season win over LSU since 2012.

“I say you are only as strong as your weakest link and this teams’ weakest link has strengthened tremendously,” Rowland said. “That has made our team so much stronger.”

Follow Noah Ram on Twitter @Noah_ram1. Contact him at [email protected].