In its first tri-meet since 2012, the Gators triumphed yet again last night against both Denver and Iowa State. Ranked No. 4 in the nation, Denver will likely be Florida’s top-ranked opponent during the regular season – but the Gators took it all in stride, coming out on top in a big way. Their 197.875 is the third Florida-owned score in the top five scores in the nation so far this season, as of the end of last night’s meet. But what does that mean for Florida’s season moving forward?
Vault was a bit of a slow start for the team, but there were signs of good things to come. Junior Jazmyn Foberg rejoined the lineup after being out last season and the first part of this season with injuries, nearly sticking her Yurchenko full vault. It was also a better vault night for Trinity Thomas, as her Y1.5 earned a 9.9. However, Alyssa Baumann had to shuffle back to keep her balance on her landing, indicating that she’s not getting her rotation fully around before hitting the mat. If she continues to struggle with that moving forward, it could pose problems for Florida’s vault rotation as a whole. Still, the team was able to drop her 9.8 last night, kicking things off with a 49.225.
Before the meet, it was discovered that Mia Sundstrom, a key supporting player at Denver, had been injured in warmups, so Denver had to quickly adjust its lineups on vault, bars, and beam to fill in her slots. As such, the Pioneers’ overall score did suffer, starting with having to count a 9.575 on bars after a fall from star Maddie Karr. And in its first rotation, Iowa State bobbled a lot on beam, but eked out a decent 49.2 to actually lead Denver after one.
In the second rotation, the Gators moved to bars and picked up speed score-wise. Freshman Payton Richards kicked things off with a 9.85 and the numbers built from there, culminating in a 9.95 from Savannah Schoenherr. That score actually earned Schoenherr her first bars title of her career, sharing it with Iowa State gymnast Natalia Ros Vaquer. The key for improving the rotation score for the Gators on bars will be really tightening up the handstands: there were many handstands in last night’s meet that were good, not great, and that can be the difference between a 9.85 and a 9.9. Averaging a 9.85 versus a 9.9 across the board is what takes a team score from 197 to 198, which come preseason is a huge difference.
The second rotations for Denver and Iowa State were both very impressive, as Denver went to beam and Iowa State to floor. The Pioneers pushed past some bobbles and balance checks to put up a 49.425 on beam, highlighted by a pair of 9.925s at the end of the lineup from Karr and Alexis Vasquez. Iowa State showed off its slew of E passes and gorgeous twisting form throughout its floor lineup, and Andrea Maldonado showed why she’s the Cyclones’ breakout star this year. Her opening pass was a front 2.5 twist, also called a Randi, and she’s the only one currently performing this skill in the NCAA. She earned a 9.95 for her powerful twisting passes and commanding dance performance.
The third rotation tested the Gators, as beam began with a fall from usual rock Amelia Hundley. Inspired to step up and cover for their teammate, the rest of the beam team were rock solid, showing tons of grit and not letting their nerves get to them. The beam team had hit after hit, with four of the remaining five going 9.9 or higher, and the rotation finished out with Trinity Thomas earning her first perfect 10.0 on beam. Thomas is only the fourth Gator to score a 10.0 on beam in school history, and hers is only the sixth 10.0 on beam in program history. Florida is showing that its beam prowess is not a fluke, and 49.6 is a pretty spectacular mark to be able to hit after a fall from the first athlete. The Gators are right where they need to be in terms of beam.
Denver’s third rotation was also not without strife, with an early fall from freshman AK Subject putting pressure on the rest of the lineup. However, like Florida, the Pios delivered, with each of the following four competitors delivering 9.85 or better. Lynnzee Brown capped off the rotation with a huge 9.95 for her Billie Eilish-inspired routine, a performance even Gator Nation was cheering for by the end. Iowa State went to vault, its weakest event of the night. Despite having several 10.0 start value vaults, including three Y1.5s to finish out the lineup, the Cyclones couldn’t score above 9.85 due to their landings and lack of control.
Going into the final rotation, the energy in the O-Dome was electric. All three teams were hitting their stride at the same time – this might have been the loudest I’ve ever heard the O-Dome. The Gators went lights out on floor, with everyone earning 9.85 or better and half the lineup at 9.925 or better. Sydney Johnson-Scharpf and Alyssa Baumann both hit career highs, with 9.925 and 9.975 respectively. The Gators finished floor with a 49.6, another enormous rotation score. The trick to maintaining the momentum the Gators have on floor is to be able to perform as convincingly in away arenas as they do in the O-Dome. Of the two away meets it’s had so far, Florida has had one convincing floor performance and one not-so-convincing. Head coach Jenny Rowland will want to find a way to motivate the team into home-energy performances in away arenas, because that’ll be the key to staying on track for postseason on floor.
In their final rotations, Denver and Iowa State also posted some of their best scores of the night. Denver had a low start to its vault rotation, but since it only had five gymnasts able to vault, the anchoring two knew they had to step it up. Brown hit one of her best Y1.5s for a 9.975, and then Karr followed with another Y1.5 stuck cold, earning a perfect 10.0. The Cyclones finished on bars with their best rotation of the night, earning a 49.375 for the rotation. Jade Vella-Wright and Natalia Ros Vaquer closed out their meet with a 9.9 and 9.95 respectively, earning Ros Vaquer a share of the bars title and bringing Iowa State’s total to a whopping 196.8.
Overall, all three teams should be happy with the scores they gained from last night. Iowa State will love a 196.8 away score when RQS comes around; it’ll give the Cyclones a leg up on some of their usual competition for those seeded regional slots. Denver should be proud of a 197.25 after taking one of its key upperclassmen out of three lineups at the very last minute, though the Pioneers will want to bolster their away scores with some higher numbers as the season moves forward. And Florida’s massive 197.875 will be another great score to set them up for RQS, and the improvements made and routines added inspire hope for the remainder of the Gators’ season.