Photo by C. Morgan Engel | Getty Images

In perhaps the wildest series of events in program history, the Florida Gators qualified to the women’s gymnastics national championship final on Thursday, along with the Oklahoma Sooners, the Utah Utes, and the Auburn Tigers. Left on the outside were former national champions Alabama and Michigan, the latter of which is the reigning champion, after a shocking series of unfortunate events. Alabama had a disappointing vault rotation to finish its meet, resulting in coming up just short of qualifying. Michigan started the meet strong, but after being forced to count a fall on bars, the team couldn’t rally and had a disastrous beam rotation, resulting in another counting fall and ultimately an eighth-place finish overall.

What’s more bizarre than Michigan not qualifying was what happened to the Gators on bars. Team manager Shea Wheeler noticed, as she was pulling the springboard away after Savannah Schoenherr mounted the apparatus, that the podium was moving too much where the wires that anchor the bars go into the podium and to the floor underneath. She told assistant coach Owen Field, who told fellow AC Adrian Burde, who decided to sit on the podium where it was bouncing to try to keep it more stable during Megan Skaggs’s routine. Though an NCAA official tried to stop him, he explained the issue, but he was not allowed to remain there. Still, it alerted officials to the issue, and once they investigated, they discovered that the anchoring system for the apparatus, which weighs it down to the floor to keep it from moving around on the podium platform, was not attached correctly!

Hannah White/Florida UAA Communications

This picture shows how the weights should be bound to create one large block, rooting the wires of the bars to the ground, as they’re filled with either water or sand. Apparently, during at least Schoenherr and Skaggs’s routines – if not others, we still don’t really know when the malfunction occurred – the straps came undone so that not all the weights were functioning together. It took ten minutes or more for arena staff to remedy the situation while Trinity Thomas, Leanne Wong, and Kentucky’s Raena Worley, who was rotating with Florida, waited to take their turn. At one point, the Gators who had already competed on bars began to regrip, with a rumor going around the arena that they might get to redo all of their routines, as it was unclear when the equipment malfunction occurred.

Ultimately, the head judge on bars ruled that the routines already completed would stand as is, but the remaining athletes would be allowed a 30-second touch warmup, as it had been too long of a wait since they had last been on the apparatus. Thomas, Wong, and Worley, who had all put their sweats back on to keep warm and started cracking jokes, got their heads back in the game and mounted the bars one by one, each hitting an excellent routine.

Head coach Jenny Rowland said after the fact, “I was just glad it was Trinity next. She can remain calm, poised and just get up and do what she is capable of doing.” Many fans expressed similar sentiments – myself included!

The Gators were able to use this moment as a major reset point and went on to have stellar beam and floor rotations, ultimately coming back to win the evening session and qualify to today’s national final. They also were lucky enough to draw Olympic order once again, so hopefully with the repeated order from Thursday that they’re familiar with, they’ll be able to settle in a little better from the very beginning, dial in those landings, and have a much better start than in semifinals.

Competition starts at 1pm ET on the ABC Network and on ESPN3 online, but if you can’t make it, we’ll have every moment for you play-by-play here as well! We’ll share updates leading up to the meet as we receive them.

10:31am: Our friend Dr. Sam from Alligator Army is in Fort Worth and recorded this footage of the Gators’ sendoff just a little while ago! The team looks pretty focused and excited as they head to the arena.

10:57am: Florida just posted their final pre-meet hype video of the season, and it is a DOOZY. Make sure your sound is on to hear Gator Great Bridget Sloan narrate.

11:06am: Make sure you all check out Morgan Hurd’s Instagram Story takeover on the Olympic Channel – she’s giving us a behind-the-scenes look at the meet today featuring some adorable antics from teammates, parents, and fans!

Highlights from Mr. McCusker outside as the Gators left their hotel this morning:

12:12pm: It looks like the Gators are warming up floor, which means warmups are almost over. They’ll start on vault, Auburn will start on bars, Utah will start on beam, and Oklahoma will start on floor. That should mean that, barring any equipment malfunctions again or other odd delays, Oklahoma and Florida will be the last two teams competing when the meet is nearly finished, as beam and floor take the longest of the four events. Their last few competitors will know exactly what they need to beat Auburn and Utah, but it may go back and forth between these top two teams depending on what the scores look like by then. It could be a real nailbiter!

12:19pm: Dr. Sam is live at the meet, filming the last of floor warmups!

12:49pm: Just a few more minutes! Remember to turn on ABC if you can, and single-event and quad-box feeds are on ESPN+!

1:00pm: Here we go! And it’s already heating up…

This would be Richards’ first vault this season.

New white leos today??

I’ll include a picture when I have them!

1:06pm: Okay here we gooooooo

Skaggs, VT: Yfull, little hop in place, great start.

Morgan, Utah BB: Acro series solid. Lovely low beam choreo! Beat to side aerial to back full stuck! Very calm, good for her.

Johnson, OU FX: Front lay to Rudi, strong start. Double tuck, clean leanding there. Hate how they front load these passes and only dance for the second half, but it’s not illegal or anything. Ugh.

1:08pm: Schoenherr, VT: Y1.5, good in the air, stutter steps under herself.

Groth nailed bars for Auburn, if a little late on her full pirouette before her dismount.

McCallum, BB: Double wolf turn, strong. Bhs loso, steady and calm, some knees. Switch to stag jump, positions are fine but nothing wow. Side aerial back full, college stick, would not give the full control to her.

Wong, VT: Podkopayeva, little step to the side. Strong shape in the air again today, good for her.

1:12pm: Reed, VT: Y1.5, underrotated and had to stumble back. Ouch. Not the way she wanted to hit.

Paulson, BB: Lovely mount sequence. Switch to split, lovely extension. Sticks her dismount!

Fletcher, FX: Whip double tuck, big lunge but doesn’t move the front foot. Front lay to front full, clean form through those. Gorgeous straddle positions in her leap series. 2.5 twist to finish, good control on her landing – that’ll be a strong score for the Sooners.

Thomas, VT: Y1.5, STUCK COLD! YES MA’AM!

1:15pm: Gobourne, UB: Good first handstand. Tkachev to pak, some flexed feet there. Last handstand looked a little shy. Full in stuck! Auburn picking it up here.

Richards, VT: Her first vault this season – Y1.5, little slide back but she is STOKED and so is Adrian! They should be able to drop Reed’s vault, which only earned a 9.7.

Lee, UB: Maloney to pak to van Leeuwen, looking effortless. Full in dismount, little scoot back.

Eaker, BB: She just has such a lovely presence. Side aerial loso, dead on. Dance series, lovely. Cat leap side aerial back tuck full is stuck! What a great routine.

1:19pm: Bowers, FX: Double pike, textbook form, wow. Front double full to punch front, and she’s COMPLETELY out of bounds! Wow! Great leap series as she recovers, but that’s a big bummer – OU will not break into the 9.9s just yet. One more left for the Sooners.

O’Keefe, BB: Gorgeous acro series, side aerial loso. Switch to split leap, great 180 positions. Full turn is nice and calm. Lovely high toe work. Cat leap side aerial back full, little adjustment as she tries to hang onto the stick.

1:22pm: Smith, FX: Double tuck to open, big slide back and she goes over the line! Oh boy. Combo pass is nice, maybe a little whippy on the front lay. Double pike to finish, better control there.

AFTER ONE: UTAH 49.5125, AUB 49.425, UF 49.35, OU 49.1875

Utah starts with its best event, but now has to contend with an order of events that corresponds with a decreased in national ranking – they finished the regular season No. 4 on floor, No. 5 on vault, and No. 6 on bars in the nation. Florida, meanwhile, gets to progress into its better events, but so does Oklahoma.

1:33pm: Rotation two time!

Blakely, UB: Maloney to pak, solid. Strong final handstand! Toe blind is strong. Double front, looked like a small step. Love to see her rebound!

Paulson, Utah FX: I missed her first pass. Lovely dance series. 1.5 to front lay, nice and floaty. Strong start for Utah on floor, they’ll like that.

Stern, OU VT: Y1.5, no stick today but small adjustment.

Hollingsworth hits BB for Auburn.

LeVasseur, VT: Y1.5, basically stuck. That’ll help turn the tide for them.

1:35pm: McCusker, UB: Gorgeous releases, stalder is well timed, double tuck – oh no, she stumbles back and sits it! Oh boy. Pressure situation.

Bowers, VT: Y1.5, little hop in place. Will be another strong one for OU.

Schoenherr, UB: Strong Jaeger. Bail is dead on! Good final handstand, not going too hard on them. Double front half STUCK COLD. CLUTCH!

Sievers, VT: Y1.5, little step forward.

1:38pm: Stevens, BB: Brusch before her got a 9.7875, so not doing quite as well on this event. Little bobble on her acro series. I didn’t catch the rest of the routine, but looked like a stuck dismount!

Skaggs, UB: Tkachev to pak, strong. Great final handstand. DLO, holds onto the stick – that’s another hit! Need two more to be in the clear.

Trautman, VT: Y1.5, looked like a small adjustment but VERY small.

Rucker, FX: Front lay front full, clean form there to finish. Another strong one for the Utes.

Fletcher, VT: Another Y1.5, little hop forward on the landing. OU is absolutely still in this.

1:41pm: Thomas, UB: Maloney to pak, solid. van Leeuwen, clean there too. Great last handstand! DLO dismount, stuck like a DART into the mat. Chomps a LET’S GO into the camera, she’s so pumped!

Groth, BB: Triple acro series, little bobble, wow that’s the first time I’ve seen her have an issue. Switch to switch half, strong. Stuck dismount!

McCallum, FX: Full in to open, strong. Dance series is clean. Front lay to Rudi is too – Utah is not letting up on the gas pedal here.

Wong, UB: Great opening handstand! Maloney to pak, little ankle sep. Great low bar handstand there. van Leeuwen is strong. DLO dismount, little slide back.

1:44pm: McLaughlin, BB: Acro series is clean. Beat to side aerial, steady. Hate that stand-still-and-turn technique, but she keeps it error free. Switch to straddle 1/4, clean. Gainer pike off the end, just a little hop.

O’Keefe, FX: Double pike, a little bouncy on the landing but stays in bounds. Gorgeous leap series. Double wolf turn, has to put a hand down – will that count as a fall? Sits her final element of her combo pass! Oh no! That’s so unusual for her.

Lee, BB: Wolf turn, clean. Front aerial to bhs loso, solid. Leap series is lovely, maybe a little check there. Bhs gainer full stuck!

1:49pm: Soloski, FX: Will Florida lead after two? Or will Soloski lift Utah past the Gators once more?

After a wait to let the judges conference about O’Keefe’s start value, Soloski is finally up. DLO is fabulous, a little slide on the landing but stays in bounds. Leaps are lovely. Front lay to front full, well controlled and clean form. 1.5 to front lay, nice and floaty. That should be enough to keep Utah in the lead.

AFTER TWO: UTAH 98.975, UF 98.875, OU 98.85, AUB 98.625

It’s just like I said, y’all. This one’s gonna be a nail biter.

MY POWER JUST BLIPPED BUT I AM WORKING ON IT

Skaggs, BB: Switch to split, lovely as always. Bhs loso, so steady. Front aerial, excellent. Cat leap to switch side, flawless. Side aerial back full stuck! If there was ever a leadoff 10, that was it y’all. Hot damn.

O’Keefe, VT: Strong opening vault for Utah.

Brusch leading off Auburn on FX with a strong routine so far. Double pike to finish, little slide on the front foot, but a good start.

2:07pm: LeVasseur, UB: Great release skills. Stuck dismount!

Blakely, BB: Front aerial to bhs, clean. Switch to switch half, strong. Side aerial back full, small hop. Good for her!

Rucker, VT: Y1.5 STUCK COLD! A duplicate from Thursday, wow.

Trautman, UB: I’m working off of two screens right now but she stuck her dismount!

2:09pm: Baumann, BB: Bhs loso, just lays it back. Switch to split, gorgeous. Front aerial to beat, nice and patient with it. Side aerial, god. 1.5 dismount stuck! What a routine!

McCallum hit her vault.

Smith, UB: Ray to pak, floated that down. Great handstand work, ooh, too aggressive on the last one, almost goes over the wrong way. Saves it, DLO dismount and little adjustment.

Hall, VT: Y1.5, oh no! Sat it! That’ll open the door.

Wong, BB: Switch leap to split leap, lovely. Acro series was strong. Switch ring, fine. Front aerial, good. Roundoff double full, can’t hang onto the stick, just a little hop forward.

Bowers, UB: Tkachev was gorgeous, and pak. Full in stuck!

2:13pm: Groth, FX: Front double full to open, strong. Well controlled and clean leap series there. 1.5 to front lay, nice and floaty in that second element. Rudi, chest a little low.

Davis, UB: Huge Piked jaeger, wow. Pak salto, strong. Double front half out stuck! That’ll be a great score for OU… in my opinion, the judges are being a little easier on them than anyone else, but maybe that’s me….

Thomas, BB: Switch leap mount, gorgeous. Bhs loso, locks those arms down, she is not going anywhere. Front aerial, doesn’t connect but makes it look intentional. Beat to korbut swingdown, lovely. Side aerial back full, little hop it looked like.

Lee, FX: DLO, solid landing, some pike toward the end. Gorgeous leap passage. 1.5 to front full, single step forward, very controlled. Another strong one for Auburn!

2:18pm: Clapper, BB: Bhs loso loso, sooo secure. Full turn is clean. Switch leap to split jump, lovely positions in the air there. Side aerial back full, swims a little but sticks the landing! That should be another great one!

Gobourne, FX: huge open double tuck, just gorgeous. Dance series is better today. Combination pass is clean, well controlled single step out of it. Double pike to close it out, and she’s thrilled. What a great career she has had – I hope she takes the fifth year.

AFTER THREE: OU 148.575, UF 148.375, UTAH 148.2, AUB 148.0125

2:29pm: Last one best one! Get it done, Gators!

Skaggs, FX: Rudi to stag, strong. So precise in her dance series. 1.5 to front lay, gorgeous throughout. INcredible. Can’t believe that’s her final routine. Thank you Megan Skaggs, Gator Nation will always remember your incredible work!

Dunn, OU BB: Acro series was solid. Dance series clean. Little scoot back on the dismount.

McCallum, Utah UB: Good low bar handstand. Maloney to pak, clean on both. van Leeuwen, nicely done. Little short on final handstand. Little hop in place on the dismount.

Trautman, BB: Bhs loso, solid. Leap series is clean. Front toss, nicely done. 1.5 dismount is stuck!

Baumann, FX: 1.5 to front full, gorgeous. Turns and leap sequence are fantastic. Double pike to close out, one of her best! The super seniors hugging on the sideline after they’re finished – two incredible careers to be proud of.

Gobourne, Aub VT: Y1.5, little hop on the landing.

2:35pm: LeVasseur, BB: Bhs loso, little lean but she finesses it. Switch leap to straddle 1/4, another lean. Front aerial to beat, patient with that one. Needle scale, lovely. OU is hard to beat on beam. Bhs gainer full is stuck.

Wong, FX: Triple full, gorgeous! Leap series there is solid. Whip half to front full, nice and clean. Double pike, almost stuck it with both feet. That’ll be another great score.

Davis, BB: Bhs loso, soo solid. Beat to ring jump, would’ve liked a little more head back but I think she’ll get credit no problem. Double full dismount is stuck – they are dialing it in.

Lee, VT: Yhalf on, layout half off, just a little slide back.

2:39pm: Reed, FX: DLO, very well controlled! Front lay to Rudi, good height on the second element on control was good. Dance series clean. Double pike, a little underdone but covers well. Hoooooo it’s a close one, y’all.

Isa, UB: Bail was dead on, we didn’t see her intial release. DLO dismount, fought to stay stuck.

Woodard, BB: Side aerial bhs, thought she was going to have too much momentum but she controlled it. Front toss to beat. Needle scale, nice. Switch to split, gorgeous 180. Side aerial back full is stuck.

2:42pm: Thomas, FX: DLO just flooooats, gorgeous. Great amplitude and positions on dance series, all three elements. 1.5 to front lay, sticks it. That’s PERFECTION, come on judges.

Smith, BB: Bhs loso, solid. Front aerial, clean. Straddle 1/2 to korbut, that’s fun! Sticks her dismount – I believe that will do it for Oklahoma.

Richards, FX: DLO, one of her best all season! Love to see her in this anchor slot. Dance series is well done, wolf started to go wonky but she controlled it. 1.5 to front lay, well controlled and kinda floaty for her – easily her best floor routine this season!

As nice as it would be, I don’t think it’s mathematically possible for Florida to catch Oklahoma.

FINAL: OU 198.2, UF 198.0875, UTAH 197.75, AUB 197.35

Well, I can’t say I’m not upset. This team performed like champions today, the Gators fought and fought hard today. I truly hope this motivates some of our stellar seniors to return for fifth years, but even if it doesn’t, I know this team will come back and fight just as hard next year.

That’s all from me this season, y’all. Thanks for a great year and we’ll see you for preseason soon!

Leave a Reply