Last night, the Lady Gators took down another SEC opponent in the No. 17 Auburn Tigers in the face of a somewhat hostile away crowd. Vault and floor mainstay Nya Reed was still out sick, but because of their depth, the Gators continued their high scoring streak, turning in an enormous 197.875 in an away meet, which will put them in a great position for RQS, which is coming in just a week or two.
Since they were the visiting team, the Gators started on bars, leading off with Payton Richards as usual. She earned a 9.85, and the squad kept building from there, with each subsequent gymnast earning higher and higher scores. Trinity Thomas was again the event winner, earning a huge 9.95, and Savannah Schoenherr was also a highlight with a 9.9. Both are focusing in on their detail work, ensuring their legs are always glued together and their handstands are perfectly on top of the bar. Getting the rest of the bars team to that point will help up the overall event score, but a 49.45 total for the event is nothing to scoff at. That’s a solid score that will get this team right where they need to be for postseason. While Florida was hitting bars, Auburn was struggling with landings on vault, with some gymnasts underrotating their vaults while others overcooked theirs abd bounded forward. Its only gymnast to go above 9.9 was Gracie Day, with a rare stick on her Y1.5 for a 9.925.
Rotation two brought Florida to vault, where it has had some trouble with landings so far this season. In addition to Reed’s absence, Alyssa Baumann was also rested on vault this week, so that brought the opportunity for Jazmyn Foberg, Megan Skaggs, and Sierra Alexander to all make the lineup at the same time. While this did mean that only three of the six had 10.0 start values, the team still showed several strong vaults. Alexander really made her case for her inclusion, with her Yurchenko full soaring nearly six feet in the air, landing a full nine feet from the vault table, and finally sticking it absolutely cold. Schoenherr struggled, underrotating her Y1.5 just a bit, having to step back to steady herself. Thomas righted the ship, with a short bound on her landing for a 9.875, and then Richards anchored with a huge, nearly stuck Y1.5 for a 9.95. If Alexander and Richards can spread their landing mojo to the rest of the squad, that’s what will bring the rest of those scores from good to great. Vault is definitely Florida’s weakest event right now, and in the battle between it and Oklahoma for the top seed, it could very well come down to whose weakest event is not as bad. Auburn’s bar rotation had some hiccups, with a break in rhythm from Derrian Gobourne and some missed handstands throughout. Florida led the Tigers by 0.55 at the halfway point, but the meet wasn’t over yet.
The third rotation saw Florida on floor and Auburn on beam, where the Gators continued to increase their lead. One cute difference last night in the floor routines was that each of the gymnasts finished her routine with her hands in a heart position instead of the usual ending pose to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Richards again led off, starting the team with a 9.825, and again, the build was solid throughout the rotation. Rachel Gowey turned in a 9.85, followed by a pair of 9.9s from Amelia Hundley and Sydney Johnson-Scharpf. Johnson-Scharpf in particular looked great, moving later yet again in the lineup and turning in the best double arabian we’ve seen from her all season. Thomas earned a 9.95, her only deduction being the landing on her final tumbling pass – she just overpowered it a little in her set with her back handspring. Baumann closed out the lineup with a 9.875, coming up just a little short on her final pass. Like vault, floor is a landing issue – the Gators need to find the sweet spot between too much and too little power. Meanwhile, Auburn struggled on beam with falls from both Emma Slappey and Drew Watson, as well as a start value deduction from Meredith Sylvia. At this point, it was unlikely that Auburn could come back against Florida, but anything can happen, so it was important for Florida to continue to fight on beam.
Richards led off the final rotation as well, bringing her total number of leadoff spots to three out of the four events. She was incredibly steady, bringing in a 9.875 to start. Johnson-Scharpf had a few bobbles, only scoring a 9.775, but Baumann came in to reset the tone with a huge 9.925. Gowey followed, building on Baumann’s score to earn a 9.95 for her impeccable work and attention to detail. Set up perfectly by her teammates, Thomas earned her second 10.0 on beam in a row for her elegant, unique routine. And to finish things off, Leah Clapper returned to the lineup with a triumphant 9.875, in this week for Hundley. Overall, beam was a win for the Gators tonight, but confidence competing away from the O-Dome is definitely something some of the squad could work on.
A 197.875 is a score Florida can be absolutely proud of, but it’s still the same key components on each event that need to be improved to continue to push that score. Vault and floor landings will have to get more secure to compete with Oklahoma, as well as to fend off the teams that are continuing to improve to catch them. Additionally, beam confidence in away arenas will have to stay high across the board in order to compete at the same level from regular season to postseason. It’s all the same things we’ve been talking about, and progress is being made, but there’s definitely still room to grow.