Chomp chomp, baby Gators – it’s National Signing Day 2020! Early signing period officially begins today for most NCAA sports, and gymnastics is no exception. Today, Gator Gymnastics announced the successful signing of verbal commit Sloane Blakely, a former US national team member.
Blakely competed at Gymnix International in 2019, taking silver on beam and bronze in the all-around in the Senior Cup. She’s a strong gymnast on all events, and will likely factor into at least three lineups for the Gators in the 2022 season. Head coach Jenny Rowland said of Blakely, “Her competitive experience, poise and grace will help her make an immediate impact as a Gator all-arounder,” indicating that she can already see how Blakely will slot in to lineups in the future.
Rowland also lauded Blakely’s “heart of gold and… spirit that lifts up and supports all those around her,” an important part of the team dynamic that Rowland has built her legacy at Florida around. Rowland is “so excited to have Sloane… join our team this upcoming season. She really brings so much to this team as far as depth… personality… [and] the will and desire to help teammates out and be the best she can be for Gator Nation.”
2022 will be a big year for the Gators. Alyssa Baumann, Jazmyn Foberg, and Megan Skaggs, who have previously contributed 11 routines to Gator lineups when all healthy, will graduate, but Blakely will be joined by Olympic hopefuls Morgan Hurd and Riley McCusker as freshmen that season, bringing in an enormous wave of talent and an enormous skill variety across the three of them. Here’s how Sloane’s skills break down on each event:
Vault – Blakely vaults a Yurchenko 1.5, the same vault competed by many of her future teammates, including Trinity Thomas, Nya Reed, and Savannah Schoenherr. Her one appearance in 2020, the WOGA Classic, did not look quite this good, but her video below from nationals last year looks very viable for college competition.
Bars – Blakely has majorly upped her difficulty in the last two years, with an increase of more than a full point from summer 2018 to spring 2019. However, she’s chosen not to compete bars at her last two major meets – U.S. nationals in 2019 and the WOGA Classic early this year. Check out her floaty releases here – with the decreased difficulty demand in NCAA, she could still play a role in the Florida bars lineup.
Beam – A strong suit for Blakely, beam is one of the likeliest places for her to help her new team. Her high standing arabian has become more and more consistent in this last few years, and her front series (front handspring+front tuck) is sure to be a crowd pleaser in the O-Dome. Her biggest challenge will be mental toughness, as she’s been prone to bobbles and balance checks in the past, but with head coach Jenny Rowland working with her, Blakely is sure to make strides in that department as soon as she starts training in Gainesville.
Floor – Another strong event for Blakely, floor could be a great place for her to slot into in 2022, especially as the team will lose Alyssa Baumann by then, who’s been a major floor contributor. Blakely sports a high, powerful full-in, similar to Gator great Alicia Boren in her earlier years, as well as a double arabian, which could be another strong E pass choice for her with some reining in from tumbling coach Adrian Burde. She also has some lovely dance elements, with great split positions in her leaps and a gorgeous double Y turn, which will earn her some good start value bonus under the collegiate code.
In total, Gator fans should get excited for the 2022 season. Hurd, McCusker, and now Blakely being part of the 2022 freshman class is an enormous asset to Florida. The sheer number of international medalists and former national team members on this squad cannot be overlooked when gauging this team’s staying power and competitive edge in the next several years. It’s a very strong indication the Gators will continue to lead the conversation for the national title for years to come, and a challenge to other top-tier schools to keep up in their recruiting or get left in the dust.