Despite a lack of TV coverage and being a “small potatoes” meet compared to some of the other high-profile matchups this weekend (see: Georgia/LSU, Oklahoma/UCLA), Florida’s meet against Arkansas on Friday night was a banner meet for a different reason. The Gators secured the regular season SEC Championship, with a record of 6-1, with their win against the Razorbacks, scoring 197.225 to 196.350.
The road has not been easy for Florida, often starting out its meets behind due to a weaker vault rotation this season and finishing two of its seven conference meets within less than a tenth of its opponent. Many Gators have also struggled with nagging injuries this season, including an early-season scare from Alyssa Baumann and the current absence of Rachel Gowey.
But with the addition of what many called the strongest freshman class in the country, Florida has continued to soar and finally clinched the conference regular season title tonight. Trinity Thomas has, of course, been the centerpiece of that class, but also key to the team’s success has been Nya Reed, who pulls in strong scores on vault and floor, and Savannah Schoenherr, who now features in three lineups and has scored 9.85+ on all of them. Leah Clapper has also become instrumental in recent weeks as the backup beam performer, as she’s been called to step in on four separate occasions and has hit every time, even under pressure of a fall before her.
The next major test for the Gators will be SEC Championships, held in New Orleans on March 23, where they will face all seven conference opponents anew. They are the heavy favorites to win, but remember those two opponents that Florida finished meets within a tenth of? LSU they beat, but to Georgia, they lost. Those three teams, plus perennial contender Alabama, will likely comprise the evening session of the meet, which is considered the more competitive of the two.
In the meantime, the Gators will spend the coming week preparing to send their seniors off in style next Friday, when they’ll face Penn State on senior night. But tonight? They celebrate.