Trinity Thomas

Trinity Thomas

Jenny Rowland will always remember that date.

On May 9, 2015, the current Florida coach left her post as associate head coach at Auburn to become the seventh head coach in Gators gymnastics history.

She has made two visits back to the Plains since leaving. In 2016, No. 1 UF defeated No. 8 Auburn by slightly over a point (197.075-195.900). Two years later, No. 5 Florida got past No. 17 AU 197.40-197.

On Friday night, Rowland will return to the Cotton State for the third time when the No. 2 Gators face the seventh-ranked Tigers. The meet will commence at 8:30 p.m. in Auburn Arena and can be seen on the SEC Network.

On Wednesday, Rowland spoke on her feelings about returning.

“I don’t know if it means more,” she said. “But it is always an emotional trip but in a good way.”

Rowland said that she continues to remain grateful for the time she spent there.

“Roots were laid there and (I’m) really thankful for that opportunity,” she said. “Without that opportunity and stepping stone in my career, I definitely would not be here where I am today.”

Rowland did create some impressive roots in her five years at Auburn.

In her final season at AU, she won the 2015 National Assistant Coach of the Year as she helped lead the Tigers to their first NCAA Super Six appearance in 22 years.

Rowland had some massive shoes to fill when she arrived in Gainesville. She was replacing UF legend Rhonda Faehn, who coached from 2003-2015 and led the team to National Championships in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Rowland has yet to reach that plateau since coming to North Central Florida, but this season feels like it could be her best shot.

Florida enters the meet with a 6-0 record (4-0 SEC). It is coming off one of its most impressive victories on the season last Friday night, a tri-meet win over then-No. 4 Denver and No. 18 Iowa State.

In that meet, it put up the nation’s fifth-best score this season (197.875). While that was impressive, it was actually only the Gators second-highest total, scoring more against No. 9 LSU (198.375) on Jan. 24.

The MVP for UF continues to be Trinity Thomas. The sophomore won her third-consecutive SEC Gymnast of the Week. It was her fourth of the season and seventh in her career.

Against the Pioneers and the Cyclones, she scored her second-career 10, doing it on the beam after doing it on the bars against LSU.

She is the only gymnast in the country this season who has scored a 10 in multiple events. Her all-around score of 39.775 was the third-highest in the country this season.

Rowland is not the only Gator returning home this weekend.

Sophomore Savannah Schoenherr is from Columbus, Georgia, only about 30 miles from Auburn.

“I have a ton of family coming, a ton of friends,” Schoenherr said. “I have a few childhood friends that actually go to Auburn now.”

Those friends and family are coming at a great time to watch Schoenherr. She is coming off arguably her best performance of the season, sharing the bars title in the tri-meet (9.95).

Auburn (3-5, 2-3 SEC) is coming off its first home loss of the season, a 197.275-196.25 decision to No. 12 Kentucky.

The Tigers’ best performance of the season was on Jan. 10 when they defeated then No. 10 Alabama at home. Junior Drew Watson led the Tigers with an all-around score of 39.425.

“Quite impressive from one perspective, but also expected,” Rowland said regarding her team’s performance. “Really great to see that their hard work in the gym is really paying off.”

Follow Noah on Twitter @Noah_ram1 and contact him at [email protected].

Noah Ram is the gymnastics beat writer. He previously covered men's and women's tennis. He is a sophomore majoring in journalism and this is his third semester at The Alligator.