Get excited, ladies and gents – gymnastics season is finally here! Taking the first week of the season as extra training time, as many teams do, the Gators finally open their season at home this Friday against conference-mate Arkansas. The theme for the Gators this year is #NOW, which seems appropriate given what happened last year. They don’t want to leave anything to chance or to the future – they’re leaving it all on the floor, taking what they can and giving nothing back.
🐊🤸♀️ 2⃣0⃣2⃣0⃣ season starts Friday in @OConnellCTR!
"Look forward to the opportunity to showcase this amazing team." – @JennyRowlandUF
✔️Preseason No. 3⃣
✔️2019 SEC champs🏆
✔️6⃣ returners w/ 1⃣7⃣ All-America honors
— Gators Gymnastics (@GatorsGym) January 8, 2020
The team is almost identical this year in terms of composition, but the atmosphere is tangibly different. The fire in these athletes is visible, in their quest for improvement and upgrades, in their attention to detail, and in their fight for every tenth even when they’ve made a mistake. The road to redemption won’t be easy, and competition will be fierce, but the Gators are ready for battle, event after event.
Vault last year was not what Florida had hoped for. Despite having the potential for a full lineup of 10.0 start value vaults, those vaults were not at a 10-worthy caliber, and the team fought landing error after landing error throughout the season. This year, the Gators aim to change that tune, working on their landing errors and power off the table for some promising results.
Our Lineup Guess:
Trinity Thomas: After winning SEC Freshman of the Year, among many other awards, Thomas is back for her sophomore season fresh off a great elite season culminating in an invitation to trials for the World Championships. Though she showed a downgraded vault at Orange & Blue, she and head coach Jenny Rowland assured us that she would be back to her full-strength Yurchenko 1.5. Provided she can drill her landings, she should be one of the top scorers here for the Gators.
Savannah Schoenherr: At the end of the 2019 season, Schoenherr had one of the best Y1.5 landings on the team, qualifying to nationals as an individual for vault. Expect no different in 2020, as she continues to improve her dynamics and hone her air awareness to stick her vault and score high.
Alyssa Baumann: The AA run that was hinted at last season is now a reality – Baumann’s Y1.5 is competition ready. The Y1.5 she showed at Orange & Blue could easily slot into Florida’s lineup, with only a slight knee bend in the last half twist and a small hop on the landing. As she improves, she could be capable of moving into the later half of the lineup.
Nya Reed: Known for her power, Reed’s Y1.5 gets huge height and distance, but sometimes, it’s to her detriment. She loses her air awareness and takes big bounds on her landings. If she can control it, she’ll earn huge scores for the Gators, but if not, she could lose her lineup slot, as there are lots of quality FTYs that could score just as well with better landings.
Payton Richards: The powerhouse freshman shows great progress on vault, and though her landing was a little off-kilter at O&B, she’s got what it takes to make the corrections and come up with big scores.
On the Bubble:
Sierra Alexander: Without a sixth 10.0 start, the Gators will need a solid Yurchenko full to fill out their lineup, and Alexander seems like the right choice, at least for the first few weeks. With her senior leadership and stellar dynamics, she’s a great option for the leadoff spot in this lineup.
Megan Skaggs: Skaggs has one of the prettiest fulls on the squad, with gorgeous form in the air and frequently hit landings. She could totally sneak into the top six on vault if anyone isn’t up to snuff.
Amelia Hundley: Hundley has also shown her ability to sub in on vault in the past and turn up a decent score. Though she’s no longer training the Y1.5 as she did last season, her full is better for it.
In 2019, the Gators showed their chops on bars all season, consistently ranking in the top three in the country on the event. They’ll need a new leadoff to replace Alicia Boren, but otherwise, expect them to keep up the good work.
Our Lineup Guess:
Megan Skaggs: With flawless lines and aggressive attack on her releases, there’s no doubt that Skaggs will highlight, if not anchor, this lineup. Expect strong scores from her throughout the season, maybe even a 10.0 if she’s lucky.
Trinity Thomas: Like Skaggs, Thomas could easily anchor this lineup. Her technique is beautiful and she swings with graceful ease – a 10.0 could also be in her future.
Savannah Schoenherr: With a personal best of 9.925 in just her first season, Schoenherr is another lock for this lineup, especially if she can keep sticking her difficult double front half out dismount as she did at O&B.
Rachel Gowey: Watching Gowey is like taking a technique clinic – from start to finish, each release and handstand shows off her body position and toe point, and her easy swing helps her make it looks effortless.
Amelia Hundley: After three years of hitting every single bar routine she’s competed, it would be a crime to take Hundley out of this lineup. She’s exactly the kind of consistent, reliable performer to take the leadoff slot this year.
On the Bubble:
Alyssa Baumann: Showing progress on bars at Orange & Blue, Baumann has been working toward competing in the all-around for a long time. For the home opener, at least, it’s our theory that she’ll be in that sixth slot, but with all the competition, it’s hard to say whether she’ll stay there or not.
Jazmyn Foberg: Foberg wasn’t ready for hard landings at O&B last month, but if she’s ready now, she’s a strong choice for the sixth lineup berth. Her power and unique combinations on bars give her an advantage over some of her teammates, which could grant her the nod.
Leah Clapper: Though her form may need some more perfecting, Clapper showcased a smooth routine at O&B featuring an effortless piked Jaeger release. If Baumann and Foberg aren’t ready, she could definitely slide into the lineup in these early weeks.
Beam has given the Gators some grief in the past, including becoming the primary stumbling block at regionals last year. Florida cannot allow the mistakes of the past to haunt them, so this year will be about moving on and pressing forward. Many of the returning gymnasts have made some minor tweaks to their routines, so maybe this will give them the edge they need to make beam a strength again.
Our Lineup Guess:
Alyssa Baumann: They don’t call her the ice queen for nothing. Baumann’s beam is a force to be reckoned with, from the gorgeous technique in her acro skills to her meticulously choreographed hand and wrist movements. The 10.0 is still hanging out there for her, and you bet she’s hungry for it.
Rachel Gowey: A beam queen in her own right, Gowey might be the only Gator who hasn’t changed her routine this year. Her confidence and ownership of the apparatus radiates during her routines, so expect huge numbers from her this year as well.
Trinity Thomas: With a new mount and a new acro element this year, Thomas continues to up her game and push the envelope. She’s another lineup lock, along with the previous two.
Megan Skaggs: Another incredible technician, Skaggs was a staple in the beam lineup last season and likely will be again this year. She may have had a few bobbles at Orange & Blue, but like a pro, she controlled them and didn’t let them throw her off.
Amelia Hundley: Hundley is the consistency queen, having only missed 5 total routines across all four events throughout her career. She’ll make a great leadoff for this beam squad.
On the Bubble:
Leah Clapper: The most likely choice for the sixth slot, Clapper subbed in frequently last season and proved her mettle, fighting to stay on even when she faltered. O&B was no exception, as she had a break in her acro series, but she fought and stayed on – an important quality to have in a beamer.
Payton Richards: The lone freshman has potential here on beam, too. At O&B, she didn’t have her full routine choreographed, but both sections she performed were solid, including her triple acro series. If she’s finished it, her beam could definitely end up in the lineup.
Sydney Johnson-Scharpf: The attack and precision she has on beam is impressive, but Johnson-Scharpf has a few more bumps to smooth out before she’s ready for competition. Still, if she’s gotten that under control, she’d definitely be an asset to this squad.
Floor is always a hit for the Gators, but it tripped them up more than once last season, including at the SEC Championships, where it essentially cost them the title to LSU. This year, they’ll need to be more consistent, and that largely comes with experience. If the coaches can find their best lineup more quickly and not switch gymnasts in and out as much, that may help in the long run.
Our Lineup Guess:
Trinity Thomas: With powerful, floaty tumbling and a performance quality that will leave you mesmerized, Thomas is the total package. With Boren graduated, she is the rightful anchor of this lineup.
Alyssa Baumann: More likely, though, is that Baumann will be the final performer on the floor. That was the MO last season, and the small score bump she received for going last after so many stellar routines definitely paid off more than a few times. Her routine is nothing to sneeze at, either, and her double layout looks better than ever.
Nya Reed: The sass queen is back, folks, and this year she has drumline music. Reed rocks the O-Dome every time she steps out, with her huge double layout and equally huge personality. She’ll be a staple in this lineup again this year, no doubt.
Amelia Hundley: Hundley has had no problem bringing the house down in years past, but this year, her routine is a real showstopper. Featuring a classic rock medley you’ll want to sing along to, her infectious energy and clean tumbling are sure to put up good numbers.
On the Bubble
Payton Richards: The only thing holding this freshman back from being a lineup lock is her confidence. If she learns to own the floor and play to the crowd, she’ll be a shoo-in for a spot on the floor squad, because she absolutely has the tumbling goods to keep up with her teammates.
Megan Skaggs: To be completely honest, the sixth spot in the lineup could go to one of four or five athletes. Skaggs is our pick because of her cleanliness in technique and the way she draws you in, giving a mysterious drama to her performance.
Savannah Schoenherr: Schoenherr had a bad night at O&B, flubbing her tumbling including sitting her front double full. But she’s fully capable of getting it together and delivering a solid score – she just needs more time. If she breaks through, expect it to be later on in the season.
Sierra Alexander: She hasn’t competed floor yet in her college career, but she’s been on the bubble for so long, it might be time for Alexander to break through. She’s a senior this year, and she has an awesome routine that features stepping in her choreography and a fabulous double layout to match. It’s time.
Obviously, the team is absolutely stacked this year, with a plethora of options available for head coach Jenny Rowland to play around with. Each lineup will have its stalwarts, but there are one or two spots in each one that could be switched around a lot throughout the season. To have this much talent on the team is a blessing, but the team will have to be 100% on top of their game if things are going to change as much as we expect. By postseason, if Florida is able to settle into a set six on every event, I think that will help them “be normal,” as Rowland likes to say, knowing what to expect in each meet and getting set in a routine. If they can do that, the Gators should be in great shape to once again contend for the national title.