Alyssa Baumann

Florida coach Jenny Rowland hugs gymnast Alyssa Baumann after her beam routine during UF’s 198.15-198.125 win over Oklahoma on Jan. 26, 2018.

 

Normality.

It’s a principle that Florida gymnastics coach Jenny Rowland has drilled into her team from the very beginning of the year. Time and time again, UF’s gymnasts have attested that the key to their success is to go into the meet and do exactly what they have done in practice: be normal.

With their win in Tuscaloosa on Friday against No. 9 Alabama, every SEC team knows by now that the Gators’ “normal” is anything but.

UF’s average score across all of its meets so far this year is a 197.670. That score is higher than the best score from seven of the other top-10 teams in the nation, along with every other SEC team.

The Gators are undefeated in conference play thus far and have taken down two of the SEC’s three other top-10 squads in LSU and Alabama. With two more SEC meets to go, it isn’t just a possibility that the Gators go undefeated in their conference for the first time since 2007, it’s extremely likely.

Florida’s next meet is against No. 7 Georgia, and although they’re a top-10 team, they could be outclassed when they step into the O’Connell Center next week.

On top of the home-meet advantage UF will have, Georgia has lost to two teams that the Gators have beaten this year in Auburn and Alabama, the latter in the Bulldogs’ own arena. Georgia fell to Oklahoma by over 2.5 points, a matchup that Florida kept within .300.

All of this coupled with the fact Georgia has only hit at or above the 197 mark in three of its eight meets gives a fairly steep advantage to the Gators.

After the Bulldogs, Florida takes on No. 21 Arkansas.

Despite being ranked in the top 25, the Razorbacks are a staggering 1-5.  They have yet to win a meet in conference play, with their only victory coming against No. 25 Arizona.

Their highest score of the season is 196.175 against the Bulldogs, and that was one of only two times they were able to crack the 196 mark. Should the Gators defeat Georgia in Gainesville, it’s almost a certainty that they’ll complete their sweep of the SEC when they travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas, in two weeks.

If Florida does win out in SEC competition, it will have accomplished a feat not even its three consecutive 2013-15 national championship squads could do. It is certainly no easy task, and UF’s gymnasts speak often of how the conference’s high level of competition forges a better team.

“Luckily, we’re in one of the best conferences, and we get to compete against the best teams,” sophomore Alyssa Baumann said before the meet against Alabama. “Each time we go against an SEC team, it’s a big deal, and you want to come away with that win.”

Follow River Wells on Twitter @riverhwells and contact him at [email protected]

River Wells is a sports writer for the Alligator and covers the University of Florida women’s tennis team. He has previously covered UF swimming and diving. He has worked at the paper since Fall 2017.