Photo by Brian Fox / Chomp Talk

Head coach Jenny Rowland confessed after hosting Kentucky: “I have to be honest, I did not catch the end score.” She and her Gator Gymnastics team were too focused, staying in their bubble, building on each routine as they went.

Florida did have a slow start as it did at its last home meet, trailing Kentucky after the first rotation. Trinity Thomas was the highlight of the rotation, her Yurchenko 1.5 looking the best it has yet in college, earning a 9.875. The team was forced to count the two 9.775 scores from Sierra Alexander and Maegan Chant after Savannah Schoenherr tried a little too hard to stick her vault and sat it instead, earning just 9.325. Kentucky, on the other hand, came out of the gate hot on bars, with Cally Nixon, Alex Hyland and Mollie Korth all earning 9.85 or better. Freshman Nixon earned the team’s best bars score, a 9.9 punctuated by her super-high double tuck dismount that she stuck perfectly. After one, the Wildcats led 49.225 to Florida’s 49.025.

Bars was where the Gators surged ahead though, earning a record-high 49.725 rotation score – the best bars score in the nation this season and the highest event score in Florida program history. Every single gymnast earned at least a 9.9, though the fairness of some of those scores is perhaps a little dubious. There were definitely some short overshoots and final handstands that weren’t deducted, but it sure made for an electric atmosphere and gave the Gators the momentum they needed going into beam. Thomas was again the standout, winning bars with a near-perfect 9.975. Kentucky came out a little slow on vault as its opponents did, with its first few scores in the 9.7s. However, their final two vaulters impressed with their Yurchenko 1.5s – Korth and Katie Stuart, the latter of whom debuted this vault here. Stuart ended up winning the vault event title with her 9.9. After two, the Gators had more than closed the gap, leading 98.775 to 98.3.

Beam was the Gators’ ultimate strength last week against LSU, but unfortunately, it was not quite the same beam team that showed up tonight. The girls showed some nerves, with uncharacteristic bobbles from Gowey and a missed connection from Thomas. It wasn’t all bad though – Amelia Hundley earned a personal best 9.9, and Thomas didn’t even need that connection to get all her bonus, earning a 9.925 to win the event. Kentucky didn’t start floor well, as Stuart struggled with all three of her tumbling passes and Ella Warren had some lackluster landings. Hyland reset the game with her innovative choreography and powerful tumbling, and Korth and Aubree Rosa closed out the night with their E pass routines. This was Rosa’s first time truly hitting floor this season with the addition of her new double layout, which surprised casual and serious fans alike tonight. Despite nerves on both sides, Florida extended their lead, leading Kentucky 148.125 to 147.55.

The Gators clinched the night on floor, despite an early out-of-bounds mistake from Sydney Johnson-Scharpf. Notably absent tonight was Nya Reed, who was rotated out to have a chance to rest, so Rachel Gowey replaced her in the lineup this evening. The final five gymnasts all scored 9.9 or better for a final rotation score of 49.55, with Boren and Thomas earning a share of the event title (shared with Kentucky’s Korth) at 9.925 each. The O-Dome turned electric in these final moments, erupting into roars after each floor performer finished, chanting for 10s and chomping along with the choreography. Kentucky didn’t give up though the win was unlikely, closing out its night with a solid beam rotation. As expected, Hyland was the highlight of the apparatus, showcasing her flexibility and extension throughout her elements and earning a 9.875.

The all-around title went to Thomas in just her third collegiate meet, scoring a 39.7, with Boren close behind at 39.525. After a night of ups and downs, Florida won out 197.675 to Kentucky’s 196.65. This is a score they’ll be happy to have when it comes time to switch to ranking by Regional Qualifying Score, though by the end of season they’ll hope to have replaced it with something a little higher. As coach Rowland said tonight, “There is still room for improvement. We left a lot out there, but that’s okay – it’s a process.” With three wins in three meets, whatever Florida’s process is, it’s definitely working.

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