Megan Skaggs

There’s been a common trait for the Florida gymnastics team this season that’s been exhibited in nearly all the squad’s wins. When someone moves into the lineup –– no matter the rotation –– they doesn’t miss a beat.

It was UF’s youngest member, freshman Payton Richards, who demonstrated that Friday night.

Sophomore Nya Reed was coming off a career-best score on the vault (9.900) in last Friday’s win over LSU. However, due to an illness, she missed the meet this week. It was Richards who stepped up this week as her vault score of 9.925 helped No. 2 Florida defeat No. 12 Kentucky 197.8-196.6 at the Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky.

“It feels great,” coach Jenny Rowland said in a release. “This team has really put in the work and the effort as they made a commitment to do whatever they can.”

The Gators’ total was its second-highest total this season behind their win over LSU, and it was the nation’s fourth-highest total in 2020. This win is a rebound for UF compared to its last home meet.

Two weeks ago, Florida (4-0, 4-0 SEC) traveled to Columbia, Missouri, to take on the Tigers and had its worst performance of the year, scoring a season-low in points (196.85). After that meet and in the subsequent weeks following it, Rowland said that the team came out too tight. This week, though, she was much more impressed with the team.

“Warm-ups were not normal, however I was super-proud of how they performed when their name was called,” she said. “They remained calm and performed what they show every day in practice.”

The night began for Florida on the uneven bars and the Gators took an early lead after scoring a 49.375. Sophomore Trinity Thomas, who had scored a 10 on the bars last week, won the bars title again this week (9.925). The Wildcats saw all five gymnasts score a 9.8 or higher and were only down by 0.2 after their vault set.

The Gators then moved to the vault and busted the meet open there. Three athletes for UF tied or set new collegiate-highs – Richards (9.925), junior Megan Skaggs (9.9) and sophomore Savannah Schoenherr (9.9). Florida’s vault score of 49.475 was a season high.

Thomas won her second event title on the floor with a 9.95. Junior Alyssa Baumann shared second with UK senior Mollie Kroth with scores of 9.925.

The final rotation sent the Gators to the beam and there they scored their team-high total (49.5). Thomas’ 9.95 led the way once again. With her four wins – she won in the all-around (39.725) as well and she now has 39 career wins. Besides Thomas, three Gators – Baumann, senior Rachel Gowey and sophomore Sydney Johnson-Scharpf – scored a 9.9.

UF is now 88-1 all-time against the ‘Cats and have won 11 in a row in Lexington.

“I’m so proud of the growth they’ve shown over the last three meets,” Rowland said. “Their intent of focusing solely on the team was there tonight. They controlled the controllables and really that’s all we can ask.”

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