By the time Alex McMurtry’s turn came on bars, Oklahoma had already clinched its second straight NCAA title.
And though the Sooners had begun their celebration nearby in Chaifetz Arena, that didn’t stop McMurtry from delivering another perfect routine.
“I just wanted to hit that routine,” McMurtry said.
“And I wasn’t thinking about a 10, and I wasn’t thinking about the scores. I honestly kind of knew Oklahoma had edged us out by then, so it was just about leaving it all out there.”
It was a fitting way for McMurtry to cap off her junior season.
A season that included four perfect 10s on three different events (floor, bars, vault).
A season where she earned the titles of SEC and Scholar-Athlete Gymnast of the Year.
And a season where she claimed the SEC, NCAA Gainesville Regional and NCAA all-around titles in back-to-back-to-back meets.
While teams like Alabama and LSU wept on the sideline after their loss, McMurtry and the Gators were smiling as they played in the rainbow-colored streamers falling from the rafters following their third-place finish with a team score of 197.7.
They were smiling because even though they weren’t leaving St. Louis with their fourth national championship in five years, they know the future of Florida’s program is bright.
“We still had a great meet overall,” senior gymnast Claire Boyce said. “I know that the girls next year are going to come back with even more fire to get that first place next year.”
The Gators will return their entire roster next season with the exception of Boyce, who had to retire midseason due to injury and will be graduating.
The experienced roster features five 2017 regular season All-Americans in Alicia Boren, Amelia Hundley, Rachel Slocum, Kennedy Baker and McMurtry.
The team will continue to be energized by Slocum, the Eastern Michigan transfer who will remain as a staple in the lineup on floor and vault, and by Baker, who had a perfect 10 on floor and two all-around titles this season.
Florida will also gain a talented incoming freshman class made up of Alyssa Baumann, Megan Skaggs and Vanasia Bradley.
Baumann, who had to defer a year to focus on rehab because of a lingering elbow injury, highlights the class as a two-time member of the U.S. Senior National Team and 2015 silver medalist on balance beam at the U.S. Nationals.
After finishing fourth in last year’s NCAA Championships, a third-place finish for the Gators in Jenny Rowland’s second year as head coach with five new athletes was a step in the right direction.
“It was an honor and privilege to be here,” Rowland said. “This team did a tremendous job of fighting.”
The 2017 season didn’t end with the program’s fourth national title.
But the 2018 season has the pieces to.
“Next year we will be back,” McMurtry said.
A video posted to FloridaGators.com contributed to this story.