The SEC has its team to beat.
Two teams undefeated in conference meets walked into the O’Connell Center on Friday, and it was the Gators that walked out with a victory over the Auburn Tigers.
The Gators had already won when freshman Trinity Thomas took the mat for her floor routine.
Florida retained its status of having never lost at the “Link to Pink” event — a meet to support breast cancer awareness — but more importantly, it began to show the improvement it was looking for over the course of the meet.
It had one of its best vault rotations yet, with three gymnasts hitting at or above the 9.9 mark. Florida’s score of 197.85 was also its second highest of the season, showing its high score of 198.025 against No. 1 Oklahoma last Friday wasn’t a fluke.
There was another area of improvement on Friday: one of the team’s freshmen.
Savannah Schoenherr’s first few vault routines in her collegiate career were rough. She placed with a 9.450 and a 9.350 against Missouri and Kentucky, respectively, and she was a part of UF’s problem with its vault routines for the first few weeks of the season.
Recently, that has changed. Schoenherr had the highest vault score of any Florida gymnast during the Gators’ meet against OU with a 9.900, and she replicated that score last Friday against Auburn. She also earned a spot on the floor unit, replacing fellow freshman Sydney Johnson-Scharpf. Schoenherr’s 9.850 in the event contributed to the team’s highest floor score of the season so far.
“I think I’ve really started to get all the jitters out,” Schoenherr said after the meet on Friday. “I think the first few meets and everything, I was overthinking it. I was thinking too hard about everything.”
With Schoenherr’s 9.850 on the floor beating any routine from Johnson-Scharpf this year, expect Schoenherr to contribute in that area for the foreseeable future while she hones her craft in her other two events.
“I’ve been working really hard in the gym to try and make the floor lineup,” Schoenherr said. “It’s the event that I’ve really wanted to compete in, because it’s the most fun.”
On top of her recent surge in success, Schoenherr also debuted a new dismount during her bar routine in the meet against Auburn. Schoenherr had been begging to try it for weeks, but Florida’s trainers hadn’t deemed it ready until Friday’s meet.
“I’ve really been working my butt off in the gym to try and get that dismount and prove that I can hit it in a meet,” Schoenherr said. “I feel like I did that pretty well tonight.”
Coach Jenny Rowland is likely to continue her employment of the freshman throughout the lineup, and she was particularly impressed with Schoenherr’s overall performance on Friday.
“Adding another event into the mix, and not only another whole event, but a new skill on bars,” Rowland said. “She had a lot more on her plate tonight, and she handled herself really well.”
Follow River Wells on Twitter @riverhwells and contact him at [email protected].