Since UF gymnastics took home the NCAA title three years in a row from 2013-2015, it has made repeated trips deep into the postseason, reaching the Super Six twice.
This year, the No. 3 Gators look to reclaim the magic of that run as they start the season off against Missouri at the O’Connell Center. High expectations for UF gymnastics are not the exception, but the norm, and the team certainly isn’t lacking any firepower to meet it this time around.
Here’s what isn’t different about Florida’s recruiting class: it’s No. 1 in the nation.
The Gators have had a recruiting class placed within the top two spots in nine of the last 10 seasons, and their 2019 freshman class is its seventh No. 1 placing during that streak.
Here’s what’s different: the Gators boast six freshmen for the class, which is their largest since 2005. Despite the increase in volume, each freshman’s resume is ample proof that fans shouldn’t expect a decrease in quality.
Two freshmen, Trinity Thomas and Sydney Johnson-Scharpf, come to Florida with ties to the U.S. Senior National Team. Thomas was a part of the U.S. squad that took gold at the 2018 Senior Pan American Championships. Johnson-Scharpf was a member of the U.S. Senior National Team from 2015-2016 and appeared in two events for the squad.
The remaining four freshmen—Leah Clapper, Nya Reed, Savannah Schoenherr and Halley Taylor—have all found their way to the Junior Olympic Level 10 Nationals.
After the team’s intramural Orange and Blue meet early in December, junior Rachel Gowey gave the incoming class praise for its performance.
“I think the freshman did amazing under pressure, just like they did in practice,” she said.
While the freshman class for UF is impressive, its returning veterans look to continue the program’s dominance in 2019.
Sophomore Alyssa Baumann is aiming to replicate the considerable success from her team-awarded “Newcomer of the Year” freshman campaign, which included first-team All-America honors, All-SEC honors and distinction of becoming the second freshman in the school’s history to score a 9.975 on the beam (a feat she pulled off twice).
Alicia Boren returns to Florida for her senior year after claiming 14 All-American nods and an All-SEC bid for the last three years in a row.
Of the Gators’ returning members, two gymnasts will return to competition after season-ending injuries.
The Gators’ other senior, Amanda Cheney, suffered a knee injury in training that kept her out of competition for the 2018 season, and this season will be her last chance to end her collegiate career with more than just academic awards. Vaulting and floor exercise specialist Sierra Alexander tore her Achilles tendon in January last year, so she’ll return to action this year as a junior.
Follow River Wells on Twitter @riverhwells and contact him at [email protected].