The moment rapper T.I’s 2004 hit “Bring Em Out” began to pump through the loudspeakers at the O’Connell Center, the crowd of almost 8,500 people bounced up and down with primal yells.
When the No. 3 Florida Gators take to the O’Connell Center to face off against the Missouri …
Senior Alicia Boren idly nodded her head to the beat moments before her floor routine.
She didn’t get too excited. She’d let her score do the talking.
That score was a 9.925, and Boren’s efforts as an all-arounder were crucial to No. 3 UF’s 197.300-196.450 victory over the No. 19 Missouri Tigers on Friday. The Gators got their revenge on Mizzou, one of two SEC teams that defeated them in the regular season last season.
The Gators started on the vaults, while the Tigers headed to the uneven bars.
Florida started off slow on the vault, with only a single member of the rotation, Boren, scoring above the 9.8 mark with a 9.875. The lowest score came from freshman Savannah Schoenherr with a 9.450, the lowest score in any event on the night.
The Tigers, however, followed no such trend. Missouri’s coach, Shannon Welker, emphasized coming out strong after the Tigers’ quad meet a week ago. They didn’t hesitate to put that plan into action as the rotation eclipsed the 9.8 mark with all but one of its gymnasts. At the end of the first rotation, Missouri held a very narrow 49.125-48.925 lead.
In the second rotation, the teams switched places, and Florida took a lead that it held for the remainder of the meet.
The uneven bars was the Gators best event of the night. UF had two gymnasts break the 9.9 mark in freshman Trinity Thomas and sophomore Megan Skaggs, who scored a 9.950 and a 9.925, respectively. The dropped score from the rotation was Rachel Gowey’s 9.825, which was higher than three gymnasts in the Tigers’ rotation.
Boren and Gowey led the way in the balance beam rotation, both scoring 9.900 during their routines. Skaggs and freshman Leah Clapper weren’t far behind, both netting a 9.875. At this point in the meet, the Gators were up on Missouri 147.825-147.325, but coach Jenny Rowland’s squad wasn’t quite finished dazzling the second-largest crowd for a home opener in Florida’s history.
While Boren’s routine solidified her leading performance among the team’s all-arounders with a total score of 39.575, freshman Nya Reed also impressed the judges and earned a 9.925 on her routine.
“We prepared so hard for this,” Reed said after the meet. “Seeing all the fans cheering for us and knowing I had a great team behind my back made it so special.”
Rowland was particularly impressed with the composure her team showed during its opening competition.
“They were super normal tonight,” she said. “What they did out on the competition floor tonight was what we’ve been training in the gym.”
Follow River Wells on Twitter @riverhwells and contact him at [email protected].