Gymnastics season has arrived! The Gators kick off 2022 with a meet to remember, as they gather several opponents for their first opener quad meet since the mid-2000s. Tonight’s challengers are quite the variety – Northern Illinois, Rutgers, and Texas Woman’s – and while they all come from different conferences with varying degrees of competition, they’re all unranked to start the season, so it’s unlikely any of them will threaten Florida for the win.
That’s not to say, though, that there’s nothing interesting about tonight’s meet! Of course, there are the many things we’ve pointed out in our preseason coverage of Florida – a wildly talented freshman class, super-senior Skaggs and her season-long dedication to bettering the world around her, and the team’s strong outlook as a whole for the year. There’s also the large, talented senior class of Gators to contend with, including AA star Trinity Thomas, vault and floor powerhouse Nya Reed, beam rock Leah Clapper, and bars queen Savannah Schoenherr.
But the challengers have some individuals to watch, too. The Big 10 just released their own preseason coaches’ poll, which included individuals from every member school to watch in 2022. The two selected from Rutgers were junior Hannah Joyner, who is a solid all-around threat and a standout beamer, and freshman Elia Aird, an Orlando native who earned a 3-star recruit ranking on College Gym News and looks to be a strong, balanced all-arounder for the Scarlet Knights.
The NIU Huskies, much like the Gators, bring a deep team to the floor this year, led by two standouts who qualified to Regionals last year as individuals: Tara Kofmehl and Natalie Hamp. Kofmehl is one of the team’s top all-arounders with a strong floor routine, while Hamp is a standout on bars and earned a MAC Co-Specialist of the Year title as just a sophomore. The Huskies also return one super-senior, Gabby Welch, who leads the team both as its eldest member and its vault anchor, so keep an eye on her as the night progresses as well.
Finally, TWU is a Division II team that the Gators have hosted on and off over the last few years. It was these Pioneers who were supposed to be Florida’s opponents on senior night in 2020, that fateful night when everything shut down. This may almost feel like catharsis for the Gators, as they finally welcome this team to the O-Dome again nearly two years later, with so much water under the bridge since then. The Pioneers also bring a large freshman class to the table, a whopping six to top the Gators’ five, and an individual Regionals qualifier of their own, Isabel Goyco. She is their top standout to watch, with a floor routine that should play well in the O-Dome. Sophomore Madeline Gose should also not be forgotten, as she won the vault title at USAG Nationals last year, the national championship for DII and III teams.
It all starts at 6:45 tonight in Gainesville! If you can’t be there, the meet is being broadcast on SECN+, or you can follow along with me here as I break down each routine, moment by moment, as I watch from home. Quad meets are difficult to follow even in person, with four events going on all at once, and with a broadcast choosing what I watch, I won’t be able to catch every single routine, but I will bring you everything I can!
6:45pm: Meet is getting ready to start! I do have a few updates from warmups just from what folks have seen: Ellie Lazzari is not dressed out, so she may be getting a rest night tonight. If we don’t hear exactly why, I will definitely ask in post-meet press!
Also, regarding Morgan Hurd, I got a semi-exclusive update from Florida’s SID just a little while ago:
6:54pm: Thinking it will cut on at 7, as introductions are likely happening now, and there are a lot to do this time around.
7:02pm: We have audio!
Skaggs, VT: Y full, commentator is confused about her training a Y1.5, nice and floaty, but comes up a little short, tried too hard for the stick I think.
Newman, Rutgers FX: just had a crash on her opening pass it looked like? Double tuck was good. Music is fun, but the choreo is not full energy yet.
Clark, VT: Completely missed it because the cameraman decided to show us beam in Florida’s frame instead… big celebration, though, and I know it was a Yfull.
7:08pm: Edwards, VT: Yfull, big amplitude, little slide back. Big celebration from Burde and the team!
Reed, VT: Y1.5, lovely in the air, one of her bigger ones too – got some great distance and height! Little shuffle step on the landing, but there’s time to dial that in.
Kofmehl, NIU BB: Saw a solid acro series before they went full screen for Reed.
7:11pm: Thomas, VT: Y1.5, STICKS IT!!! I’m having flashbacks to last year when she had her best vault of the year in the very first week and she was robbed of a 10. They won’t give it to her tonight, I can’t imagine, but it’ll still be a great score.
Blakely, VT: And we missed this one too, wow, the camera work on this is a mess so far.
Balser, Rutgers FX: Great first two passes so far. Rudi to finish, nice! More energy in that one than the last Rutgers routine we saw too.
7:14pm: Sissi, NIU BB: Starts with a fall on her acro series, big bummer. Leaps looked nice though. Roundoff 1.5 dismount, little cross step.
TWU had a nice UB dismount just now, no idea who it is.
7:16pm: Leese, Rutgers FX: Full in, one foot OOB and not a lot of control there. A little wild on the second pass too, but fights for it. Rudi to finish, that’s better. Oh, she’s wearing her Tiny Bow too! Love to see that.
Bonzagni, TWU UB: Jaeger was nice. Double tuck stuck!
7:18pm: Hooper, NIU BB: Lovely series. Dismount looked stuck from here! They keep jumping around, sorry y’all.
Joyner, Rutgers FX: Ooh, here we go. Double pike, too much power and goes OOB. She has a bigger pass than that in the tank. Front full to front lay, and she sits it, ouch. 1.5 to front pike to close, that’s a lot better. Not the routine she wanted, and not the one she would need to challenge for the AA tonight.
Al-Ashari, NIU BB: Gorgeous leap series as we tune in, love that. Side aerial, stays steady. Roundoff 1.5 twist dismount, hop forward.
7:23pm: Huang, Rutgers FX: Front double full, very nice! Rudi to layout stepout for her second pass, soooo floaty, lays it right into the corner. Another Rudi to finish (that’s a backward 1.5 twist for anyone still learning!) and it’s another good one. I love watching her, she’s an engaging performer and such a nice twister.
7:26pm: Jones, Rutgers FX exhibition: Double pike, little bouncy on the landing but stayed in bounds. A jazzy routine, love this music. Rudi second pass, solid there. She’s hamming up this choreo, so fun! Final combination pass is well-controlled and cleanly twisted as well. A little kiss blown to finish! Ok, get that in the lineup stat, coach.
AFTER ONE: UF 49.275, RUTGERS 48.050, NIU 48.0, TWU 47.575
7:35pm: Rotation two getting ready to start!
Blakely, UB: Gorgeous handstand to start. Maloney and to pak, very nice. Almost went over the wrong way on her last low bar handstand. A little off on the handstand on the high bar, front giant, double front with a step forward.
Podges, TWU BB: A great hit routine! Watched it while I was eating my pizza, so I don’t have a play by play for you, but it was solid and fun to watch, a good lead-off for them.
7:39pm: Skaggs, UB: Tkachev to pak, just as gorgeous as it’s always been. Lovely handstand on the high bar, double layout (DLO) is so floaty and she sticks, YES!
McCusker, UB: Maloney to pak, so lovely. Toe on, van Leeuwen, all so clean. Front giant work is gorgeous. Double front half out, a little deep in the landing and she hops forward. It looks like she’s a little emotional, aww!
7:42pm: NIU FX:, not sure who Double back to start, solid. Another jazzy routine! Dance series looked a little labored. Combo pass was good in the middle there.
Leese, Rutgers VT: Y1.5, little slide back. Good for them!
Schoenherr, UB: Releases all good. Double front half out, little step back. A great one for her! Glad to see her able to do her full difficulty despite the boot a month ago.
7:45pm: Thomas, UB: Maloney to pak salto, just gorgeous. A little shy on that next handstand, but gets it back with the van Leeuwen. STUCK DLO!!!! She is having a heck of a first night back, I’m so thrilled for her.
Just saw Welch close out her floor for NIU with a solid double pike, wish we’d seen the rest.
Wong, UB: The freshman anchoring! You love to see it!! Gorgeous opening handstand. Maloney to pak, little leg sep. Knee bend on the van leeuwen. DLO, has to swim for it but looks like she didn’t move her feet! A great debut for her too!
7:49pm: Nock, NIU FX: full in to open, a little wild in the air but held the landing well. Oh, she’s fun to watch. Dance series splits are a little shy of 180 from what I can see at this angle. Front lay to Rudi, good control. Great start for the freshman!
Pierce, TWU BB: Acro series was solid, wish we could stop switching away from her on the camera feed. Lovely splits in her dance series, switch to straddle 1/4. Front aerial to sissone, little lean but kept it under control. Punch front tuck full to dismount, little stutter step on the landing.
7:52pm: Kofmehl, NIU FX: 1.5 to front lay, really had to pop the front layout around but she got there. Double tuck, great control to finish it out.
7:54pm: Kunzman, TWU BB exhibition: Layout layout for her series, that was nice. Not anywhere close to 180 in her switch leap-switch leap series. Roundoff 1.5, hop on the dismount.
AFTER TWO: UF 98.55, NIU 97.225, RUTGERS 96.925, TWU 95.9
8:02pm: Rotation three getting ready now!
Skaggs, BB: Single wolf turn, steady and clean. Switch leap to split jump, gorgeous lines and amplitude. Bhs layout-stepout (loso), super solid there. Front aerial, little lean but shows no sign of trouble. Cat leap to switch side, not a lot of amplitude on that but hits 180. Side aerial to back full stuck! A great start for the Gators!
Ryan, NIU VT: Tsuk back tuck? Maybe? It was a bit of a mess and she had to reeeeally pull it around to put it to her feet, but she did it.
8:05pm: Blakely, BB: Front aerial to back handspring (bhs), steady. Switch to switch half, very nice. She’s attacking this. Full turn, good. Side somi, not the prettiest one I’ve ever seen but not a hint of a bobble. Side aerial back full, just brings her heels together. Absolutely nailed it!
8:07pm: Ouch, just saw a fall from Rutgers on bars.
Richards, BB: good to see here returning to this event after some difficulty with it at the end of last season. Ooh, a little seated cartwheel to start off, that’s new. Bhs loso loso, love that triple series! Bhs 1.5, little hop in place. She hesitated in places but she fought through the nerves – proud of her.
Johnson, I think, TWU FX: Careful bringing this music into the O-Dome, this used to be Sloan’s! Good first pass though, and I like the choreo so far. Rudi… and we cut away to beam.
8:10pm: Baumann, BB: Bhs loso, just gorgeous, nice and floaty. Switch to split, we changed angles mid-split so I can’t tell whether she hit 180 but I assume. Switch half, a pretty good one for her. Roundoff 1.5 STUCK! Big fist pump from her as she celebrates.
And now TWU is using Thomas’s music from two years ago? I like the choreo though, good musicality. No idea who it is.
Wong, BB: Lovely dance series. Bhs loso, just nails it. The finish in all of her movements is so elegant, everything intentional – I’m obsessed. Front aerial, had to take a step out of it but she covers well with some choreo. OOH big wobble on that but doesn’t fall. Side somi, fights for it. Hop on the dismount – what a fight! Good to see her with some grit.
8:14pm: Clapper, BB: Bhs loso loso, thought she wasn’t going to have enough momentum somehow but she does, just lays it in. Switch to split, nice 180, toe point could use a little more if I’m being picky. Side aerial back full, stuck! Anchor isn’t where I would put her, but she slots in there pretty nicely, I’ll admit.
Pierce, I think, TWU FX: Dance series is good, a little flexed feet. 1.5 to front tuck… half? Looks like she got a little lost in the air there.
Taylor, BB exhibition: We’ve joined a little late, front toss is good. Bhs loso, nice and solid there. Switch leap switch leap, both short of 180, bhs gainer full off the side, stuck! Good for her! Commentators are talking about her earning a scholarship, such a heart-warming story.
8:20pm: Goyco, TWU FX: We’re getting an 80s medley in this routine and I’m obsessed! Front lay front full, super clean. Double tuck gets good amplitude, good control too. That’s a fun one, wouldn’t be surprised to see her at Regionals again this year.
8:22pm: Woodring, TWU FX: Double pike to open, very clean, decent control, little slidey. Dance series hit her 180s but little low in amplitude for me. Front full front lay, good form through that, good landings too. She’s a little stiff in terms of dance. Double tuck, stumbled backward and ended up fully out of bounds (OOB).
AFTER THREE: UF 148.1, NIU 146.025, TWU 144.75, RUTGERS 144.175
NIU’s Tara Kofmehl currently holds the floor title with a 9.925, which could be enough to keep at least a share of it, based on the tighter scoring tonight, but both Thomas and Reed have a history of blowing that mark out of the water.
I’m being told Thomas will not be in floor? Probably just taking my advice and resting those with nagging/recovering injuries 😉 Taylor will also be in instead of Richards as had been originally planned.
8:32pm: Here we go!
Skaggs, FX: Double wolf turn to open, well controlled. Rudi to stag, nice air and good control. So sharp on all this choreo so far, I love it. Hitting all her musical moments relaly well. Second element in her dance series felt a little wild, but she keeps it controlled when she comes down. 1.5 to front layout, nice and floaty. WHAT A NIGHT!! That will be the AA title for her for sure.
Taylor, FX: Classic rock routine from her this year, fun. Double tuck to open, solid but not throwing the full in yet. 1.5 to front lay to stag jump, had to pull it around a little bit but no trouble doing so. The Thunderstruck Gator Chomp moment is great! Double pike to finish, she’s a little out of gas and has to stumble forward, doesn’t put her hands down though.
8:38pm: Blakely, FX: Double arabian, HUGE amplitude, single step forward and puts it RIGHT at the edge but refuses to go out. Switch ring to switch half for her dance series, very nice. Double tuck, had to pull it in a little bit but no cowboying, that’s good. Fun Gator chomp moment, so good. Combination pass to close, a little short on the layout but covers it. What a debut for her!! Will she actually beat Skaggs in the all-around? It’s possible!
She will! Blakely will WIN the all-around in her NCAA debut!
8:41pm: Baumann, FX: The sheer DRAMA of this routine. Both passes good so far, gorgeous form in her combination pass as always. Double pike to finish, and closes with the Gator chomp. What a queen.
Joyner, Rutgers BB: Bhs loso, a little off but she hangs on! Switch half to straddle jump, gorgeous amplitude. Roundoff 1.5, hop in place.
Big scream in the crowd, but Baumann only goes 9.975, only one judge threw the 10.0.
8:45pm: Wong, FX: Triple full to open!! Devastatingly beautiful, as it’s insanely gorgeous but she goes out of bounds. Combination pass to stag jump, a little out of control but masks it with choreography. Double pike to finish. That’ll be fantastic as she continues to polish. What a debut night for her too, especially after only being in town for less than two months!
8:48pm: Reed, FX: Y’all, just wait! DLO, so floaty, just barely stays in bounds, but places her foot like a pro. Bringing the Milkshake choreography, straight into Missy Elliott, yes ma’am. Front lay to Rudi, picks up the front foot, little too much energy there. Loving the mix of this music though. Double pike, nails it, and closes it out with her chomp too. That one is going to be a showstopper all season long, I’m obsessed.
8:51pm: Clapper, FX exhibition: Another last minute change, so glad she’s ready to have a chance to perform tonight. Same routine as last year, I don’t mind it! First two passes are solid. Double pike to close, hits it! Another solid option Florida could use – would rather have had that than Taylor in tonight, honestly, but impossible to have known that ahead of time.
FINAL: UF 197.675, NIU 194.55, TWU 193.65, RUTGERS 192.075
Event winners tonight were as follows:
VT: Thomas, 9.95
UB: Schoenherr and Wong, 9.875
BB: Blakely and Clapper, 9.95
FX: Baumann, 9.975
AA: Blakely, 39.45
Alrighty, folks, that’s all from me here. Make sure to follow me on Twitter for updates from the post-meet press conference and all your Gator gymnastics news throughout the week! See you back here on Sunday for Florida v. Alabama and Equality Night!