Florida Gators gymnastics cruise to a win behind Bridget Sloan

Special report on the Florida Gators gymnastics team:

GAINESVILLE, Florida – Two perfect 10.0s helped the Gator gymnastics team turn in the nation’s third-highest total for 2016 in Friday’s win versus North Carolina. Florida finished 2016 regular-season action with a 198.05-193.725 win versus the Tar Heels in front of 7,039 fans at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.

Friday’s meet was the final home appearance for Florida’s four-member senior class – Bridgette Caquatto, Bianca Dancose-Giambattisto, Morgan Frazier and Bridget Sloan. This class has:

* Won Florida’s first three NCAA Championships (2013, 2014 & 2015)

* Won 2013 Southeastern Conference team title

* Turned in a 50-11 regular season record since 2013

* 20-1 in home action

Florida Event Winners Friday

Vault: Kennedy Baker 9.925
Alex McMurtry 9.925
Bridget Sloan 9.925

Uneven Bars: Alex McMurtry 10.0

Floor Exercise Bridget Sloan 10.0

All-Around Bridget Sloan 39.775

It was also the final Florida athletic event in the O’Connell Center’s main arena before it undergoes a major renovation. The renovated arena will open in December of 2016. The Gators are 245-62 (all meetings) in their 36 years of competing in the O’Connell Center.

Gator Nation also helped to close out this era of the O’Dome by setting a season average attendance record of 7,433, breaking the previous record of 7,366 set in 2014.

Florida opened its last home meet with a three-way tie of 9.925 on vault among Sloan, Kennedy Baker and Alex McMurtry, who all shared the event win. Sloan and McMurtry matched season-highs with their scores.

McMurtry anchored Florida’s uneven bars set with her second 10.0 of the season. Florida used marks of 9.875 or better to tally a bars total of 49.65 – the fourth-highest in school history and the second-highest in the nation this season.

On balance beam, McMurtry led UF with a 9.925 score to take second. North Carolina’s Morgan Lane took the event title with a 9.95.

Florida closed the meet on floor exercise. Sloan brought the O’Connell Center crowd to their feet for her final performance in the arena, scoring her second career 10.0 to take the win. The Gators’ total of 49.675, their highest of the night, matched their previous season-high on Jan. 29 versus Alabama and ranks fifth all-time at Florida. It is the nation’s second-highest floor total of 2016.

Sloan (39.775), Kennedy Baker (39.600) and Alicia Boren (39.450) swept the top three all-around spots. Sloan also scored 39.775 – the nation’s high for 2016 – in the Jan. 29 dual against Alabama.

* Sloan’s wins on vault, floor and all-around move her to sole possession of second on Florida’s career event wins chart at 88. She moved past Gator All-American Melissa Miller’s (1986-89) previous second-place total of 86. Florida’s leader is Elfi Schlegel, who accumulated 90 event titles from 1983-86.
* Sloan’s all-around title tonight gives her 24 for her career, also moving her to second on Florida’s all-time list, which she now shares with Miller.
* Sloan is one of three all-arounders in the country to score a national-high 39.775 this season, but only Sloan has done it twice.
* McMurtry is the nation’s only gymnast to register a 10.0 on bars this season. Of the nine gymnasts to post 10.0 marks in 2016, four have scored the mark on multiple occasions (McMurtry – UB 2x; Sloan – BB, FX; Ashleigh Gnat/LSU V 2x, FX 2x; Nine McGee/Denver FX 2x).
* Three Gators have turned in multiple 10.0 uneven bars marks in a single season – McMurtry (2016), Sloan (2015) and Melanie Sinclair (2007).
* Sloan now has eight perfect marks as a collegiate (three beam, two bars, floor, one vault). She is the Gators’ career leader for 10.0s.
* A total of 10 season or collegiate-best marks were turned in by the Gators Friday.

RECORDS: Florida (8-2, 5-2 SEC); North Carolina (5-11, 2-3 EAGL).

THE SERIES: Florida leads 20-1.

The Florida versus North Carolina meet is available on WatchESPN for 30 days.

On tonight’s performance:
“This really was an amazing night for the team – for the seniors, for the coaching staff, for everybody.

“It is hard to realize that I have only been here for nine months, but these seniors and these Gators – everybody on the team means so much to me. So incredibly proud with how they have handled this season thus far.”

“It is not over. I told them before the meet started that this is just another meet. I don’t want to take senior night away from them, but it was just another meet and we can celebrate afterwards. They went out there and performed with a lot of heart, had a lot of fun and I’m just super proud of them.” — Florida head coach Jenny Rowland

On Senior Night:
“When we first got into the arena, I said ‘this doesn’t even feel like senior night.’ As every event went by I realized that was my last bar routine, last beam routine, then we got to floor and all the parents walked out [to the sideline]. I’m not an emotional person, but I saw my dad start to tear up and I was like ‘oh dear.’ When my dad starts crying, it was immediate tearing up for me.

“As Jenny said, we’re not done as we have a few meets left. The best meets of the season are coming up. Postseason is the best time ever, so I think we have a lot to look forward to.” – senior Bridget Sloan

On the senior class:
“This class, I’ve never been a part of something like this. We’ve been a part of three national championship teams, we’ve seen the good, the bad, the ugly – we’ve seen it all. And we always come together at the end. I think we have the best variety on this team, and I think we have the best variety of seniors, and to see all of us go out tonight, not just the determination to do well, but the determination to look forward to the next coming meets. We didn’t look at this like ‘oh man, this is our last meet,’ we looked at it as an opportunity to go out in front of the best crowd, with the best team, for the best nation – it was a night to remember.” – senior All-American Bridget Sloan

On senior night:
“Tonight was a really special night for me. It was really nice to have my family come here from Canada. I’m not usually an emotional person, but hearing the Canadian anthem, I started tearing up. That’s when it really hit me that this was our last meet in the O’Dome. It truly is a time that I realize that Gator Nation and competing in the O’Dome for our fans was truly exceptional. As seniors, we are grateful for what this nation has given to us.

“At the end, we huddled and said we’ve won three national championships and we still have a lot of work to do to end this season. Obviously, we’re looking forward to going to nationals and trying to get that fourth national championship.” — senior Bianca Dancose-Giambattisto

On performing floor at senior night:
“I’m not really an emotional person, but I was trying to hold back my tears before my last floor routine. I looked over at my sister and my family, and I shouldn’t have done that. When they called my name, the whole Gator Nation was standing on their feet, being super rowdy and awesome, just like they have been the past four years.

“To be out on that floor, I was a little nervous because you want to hit a good floor routine. I think having that little extra pressure will help prepare me for those big meets coming up in the post season. Just nailing my last pass and throwing my head back, I just wanted to burst into tears because this has been an awesome ride here.” — senior All-American Bridgette Caquatto

On her perfect 10 and the senior class:
“When I got that anchoring position last year, I was terrified. I always think of the anchor position as being (Bridget) Sloan, being the strongest athlete out there, and bars has never been my event. This year, being able to get the second perfect 10 has given me confidence. Last meet I didn’t have the best meet, so this was a comeback for me, and I really want to show it off in the post-season.

“This night was not about me. Yes, I had a great meet, but these seniors are exceptional. They have been role models and leaders for me. I told Sloan after her routine that I don’t think I’ve ever wanted someone to make their routine so badly in my life. This was their last chance, and every time they raised their arms to salute, I wanted them to make it and to have the biggest smile on their face. That’s what they deserve. They had one night, and they definitely showed it off. I can’t wait to see what happens in post-season, but I know that they have been the biggest leaders and friends for me. I’m just extremely proud of them tonight.” — sophomore All-American Alex McMurtry

National Rank:
Florida – Florida is No. 2 in the March 7 Road to Nationals rankings.
North Carolina – Tar Heels not ranked in top 25

Championship competition begins next weekend in North Little Rock, Arkansas. All-American Alex McMurtry action is set for Saturday, March 19 in the Verizon Arena.

The eight-team SEC field will be contested in two sessions. Session I includes seeds 5-8. Florida will compete in Session II that begins at 6 p.m. ET.

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Andrew Spivey
Andrew always knew he wanted to be involved with sports in some capacity. He began by coaching high school football for six years before deciding to pursue a career in journalism. While coaching, he was a part of two state semifinal teams in the state of Alabama. Given his past coaching experience, he figured covering recruiting would be a perfect fit. He began his career as an intern for Rivals.com, covering University of Florida football recruiting. After interning with Rivals for six months, he joined the Gator Country family as a recruiting analyst. Andrew enjoys spending his free time on the golf course and watching his beloved Atlanta Braves. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewSpiveyGC.