To quote head coach Jenny Rowland, tonight’s performance was “super normal.”
Being normal is a concept that the Gator gymnasts have focused on for over a year now, and Rowland finally thinks that they’ve done it. There are obviously still improvements to make, after a rough vault rotation and some missed opportunities on dismounts, but she said that “if this is what jitters looks like, it’s going to be a spectacular year.”
Jitters there certainly were, though. The Gators were actually behind after the first rotation – not because Missouri did anything crazy stellar, but because the team had too much adrenaline on vault. Trinity Thomas, Nya Reed and Savannah Schoenherr all overdid it on their Yurchenko 1.5s, leading to some big bounds forward and a possible knee graze from Schoenherr. Alicia Boren was the only one to perform a Y1.5 that didn’t overdo it, and she was rewarded with a share of the vault title, scoring 9.875. Missouri’s Hannah McCrary was the other vault winner, showing off her own Y1.5, a vault Mizzou doesn’t see very often.
What made it such a great night was that the team realized and was able to slow down and get rid of the jitters during bars. It wasn’t the best it could have been, but a huge one-two punch of Thomas and Megan Skaggs at the end of the lineup demonstrated that things were getting back to normal. Thomas ended up winning the event with a 9.95 – and remember, this is only her first collegiate meet! Bars for Missouri was good, not great – most performances were middle of the road, but they are definitely dialing in on their landings.
Beam had a few bobbles, but the girls took them in stride and didn’t let them cascade or get out of control. Alicia Boren is known for her steadiness, so she’s often in the middle of the lineup to serve as a built-in reset button if things start to get out of control. Tonight, she cut it off before it got that far and earned a 9.9 to tie for the event title. Teammate Rachel Gowey was the other event winner, who immediately followed Boren and debuted a new punch front tuck in her routine, a risky skill that has been known to cause falls at the most inopportune times. It was flawless, and she too earned a 9.9. Beam was a little lackluster for Missouri, with two scores in the 9.7s, but Britney Ward was a highlight, with unique skills and great presence that earned her a 9.85.
But the real highlight of the night was floor, where Reed, Boren and Thomas all had the crowd screaming on their feet after each of their routines. Reed and Boren both earned 9.925s for their sassy showings, while Thomas went the more dramatic route for a 9.9. All three talked about the process of choosing their floor routines (and how long it took them), but all seemed to agree that their routines very much suit them and that they’re incredibly fun to perform for the crowd. Floor was a great showpiece for Missouri as well, though they seemed a bit intimidated by the size of the audience. Their star was Aspen Tucker, who used the crowd to her advantage and gave an electric performance for a 9.875.
Boren wasn’t emotional at all about tonight being her last first meet, saying “it’s just another meet!” And statistically, she’s right – it was another cleanup kind of night for her, as she’s done many nights before. She took the all-around title with a 39.575 and tied for three of the four event titles. She and coach Rowland were both incredibly proud of the freshmen who stepped up to perform tonight, and Rowland told them: “Really, it only goes up from here.”