“You can expect that the Gators are out to play. We’re hungry,” Alyssa Baumann announced after the team’s annual Orange and Blue intrasquad last night, but it had already been said – the performances throughout the event said it all. From start to finish, both teams showed off the makings of an incredible season for Florida, beginning with the fact that they have enough gymnasts routine-ready on each event to make two whole lineups. That’s ten gymnasts per event, for anyone who’s counting.
Vault started out a little slow, with Trinity Thomas showing a downgraded Yurchenko full just to be cautious and preserve her strength for the season and Nya Reed overpowering her Yurchenko 1.5 with a big bounding lunge out of her landing. Thomas did confirm that she will go back to the 1.5 for season though, so don’t worry. But the second team of vaulters really showed that the Gators are trying not to let this event be their weakness this year, as Baumann, Savannah Schoenherr, and Payton Richards all showed strong Y1.5s and Sierra Alexander practically took flight with huge height and distance on her FTY. Counting Thomas as a 1.5, the Gators will have six FTYs and five Y1.5s on the team come January. With only six lineup slots available, this creates lots of competition within the squad, which Baumann said “pushes the team to get even better.”
Best Guess for Vault Lineup 2020: Alexander, Richards, Reed, Baumann, Thomas, Schoenherr
Could Sneak In Week to Week: Skaggs, Hundley
Bars was one of Florida’s best events in 2019, and 2020 should be no different. Though Maegan Chant did not compete last night due to a minor hand injury, she is “doing great work on bars” according to head coach Jenny Rowland, meaning the Gators will have 11 options on this event as well. There is still some work to be done, with Jazmyn Foberg not doing her dismount to her feet yet and some skills still being spotted by bars coach Owen Field, but last year’s standouts only seem to have gotten better. Thomas, Schoenherr, and Megan Skaggs promise to be a 1-2-3 punch to close the lineup with great scores once again, with all three of them earning 9.9 or higher last night. Seniors Amelia Hundley and Rachel Gowey are also likely to carve out comfortable positions in the lineup, and Baumann has worked all summer on getting her Ray release ready for competition. Richards and Clapper also look like they could be good options, given some more time and competition experience.
Best Guess for Bars Lineup 2020: Hundley, Baumann, Gowey, Schoenherr, Thomas, Skaggs
Could Sneak In: Foberg (once healed), Clapper, Richards
Despite being ranked No. 3 on beam at the end of 2019, the Gators’ performance on beam last year was wildly inconsistent. This year, there has clearly been an effort to correct that issue, as anyone who bobbled last night showed some fight to stay on. The “best save of the night” award goes to Halley Taylor, the final beam performer of the evening, who bent at the hips after her acro series but somehow managed to stay on, turning all the way around on the beam until she was facing the other way. And an honorable mention has to go to Schoenherr, who missed her punch on her dismount and somehow still pulled a full twist out of what was supposed to be a double full. It’s clear that the desire to fight for every tenth is there, when last year it was questionable in places.
Despite some bobbles, the Gators still look to have a strong beam squad on their hands. Baumann and Gowey were sharp and elegant as always, Thomas had some new composition and two elements she brought from elite to her college routine, and Leah Clapper reminded everyone why she was chosen to step in during injuries last year. Skaggs showcased her finesse and attention to detail, while Hundley was an absolute pro, locking it down when a less experience gymnast might have bobbled. Richards and Sydney Johnson-Scharpf also showed promise, though the former has some of her routine still to figure out and the latter did fall. Again, the Gators have two full lineups’ worth of options here, so it’ll be a fight to see how the final lineup shakes out.
Best Guess at Beam Lineup 2020: Hundley, Clapper, Skaggs, Thomas, Gowey, Baumann
Could Sneak In: Richards, Johnson-Scharpf
Floor this year has upped the ante in a major way. Rowland called all the floor routines an upgrade, saying, “I think everyone’s floor routine is an upgrade, if you can believe that! I thought everyone’s floor routines were fabulous last year, but this year really just knocks the socks off of everybody.” Volunteer assistant coach and choreographer Jeremy Miranda revealed that they spent an enormous amount of time conceptualizing the routines this year, spending until September on music selection before beginning to choreograph. For only three months in their muscle memories, these routines looked fantastic. Each one has an individual personality that matches the gymnast performing it, but they also feel like a cohesive unit, with a thread of drama running through each one connecting it to the last.
Our “bring the house down” award goes to Hundley, whose classic rock routine is going to be a huge hit with the enormous crowd in the O-Dome. Honorable mentions would go to Skaggs, whose routine feels mysterious and powerful, and Reed, whose drumline-inspired music brings a massively contagious energy to her dance. The tumbling was strong too, with Baumann, Alexander, Richards, Thomas, and Reed all showing very realistic double layouts, though some were spotted by assistant coach Adrian Burde, and Taylor showing a new full-in. Gowey also showed off new routine construction, with only two passes – a front layout to Rudi and a double tuck – which should greatly help the stamina issues she’s had in past year. The event wasn’t without its issues though: Johnson-Scharpf is still doing a double arabian which leaves something to be desired on the landing, and Schoenherr sat her new front double full. She’s competed the skill before, but not in college, and she’s still not the most confident with it. If she can fix it before season, she’ll be in the lineup for sure, but for now, it’s probably the only thing holding her back. Rowland will want to have the six gymnasts who best balance performance and tumbling to fill her lineup, which means they may not necessarily be the ones with the most difficult skills.
Best Guess at Floor Lineup 2020: Skaggs, Richards, Hundley, Reed, Baumann, Thomas
Could Sneak In: Alexander, Gowey, Clapper
In terms of all-around, the Gators lost one of their best all-arounders last year in Alicia Boren. This year, there are a whopping eight gymnasts who have the ability to compete on all four, which is huge. Thomas will obviously get the nod again this year, with Hundley and Baumann strong possibilities as well. Hundley will need to prove her Yurchenko full is the best of the bunch in order to make the vault lineup, which is the only lineup she’s not projected to make off the bat. Baumann, on the other hand, is likely to feature in all four, but she’ll need to keep her Y1.5 just as she showed it last night and make sure her bars stay up to snuff. Once Foberg is healthy, she could very possibly knock Baumann out of the top six, leaving Baumann just shy of being in the all-around.
Overall, the prospects for the Gators are bright once again this year. They are trying to leave last year’s disaster in the past and push forward, using the hashtag #NOW as their season slogan, reminding themselves that they have to leave everything out on the floor in order to make it happen. This final intrasquad before season demonstrated that they are fully capable of big skills and strong scores, and that they deserve to still be in the conversation for the national title.