Special report on the Florida Gators gymnastics team
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Florida kept its 2016 record versus top-10 teams perfect with a 197.45 – 195.975 win versus Arkansas Friday in front of a pink-clad Stephen C. O’Connell Center crowd of 7,621.
Tonight Florida faced its fourth top-10 opponent and has taken the win in each meeting. Last month, the Gators faced three consecutive top-10 teams (No. 5 UCLA, at No. 8 Auburn, No. 5 Alabama) and started February home action versus No. 9 Arkansas.
The Gators shook off last week’s slender loss at Georgia with a solid performance throughout Friday’s meet.
Each event title went to a Gator. Freshman Alicia Boren opened the competition with a 9.95 on vault, earning her third collegiate event title and tying her season-high vault score. Senior All-American Bridget Sloan and sophomore All-American Alex McMurtry shared the uneven bars title at 9.95. Senior All-American Bridgette Caquatto also scored a season-high 9.925 on bars.
McMurtry won her second title of the night after posting a career-high 9.95 on balance beam. Sloan matched McMurtry’s two titles with a 9.95 win on floor. Boren equaled her collegiate floor best of 9.925 to take second.
Boren also captured her first collegiate all-around title, totaling 39.525. Arkansas’ Amanda Wellick was second at 39.325.
At the 10th annual Gators Link to Pink meet, Florida honored breast cancer survivors prior to the meet and also welcomed back Florida gymnastics alumna Rachel Spicer and her mother, Mickie, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in early 2015 and is now in remission. Most of the SEC’s gymnastics teams will have a pink meet this season, with the intention to help raise awareness about the fight against breast cancer.
GATOR PERFORMANCE NOTES
Boren celebrated her 19th birthday with her first collegiate all-around win. She is one of two freshmen among the top 20 in the latest national all-around rankings.
A 9.95 took each event title for the Gators Friday. Boren (vault), McMurtry (bars, beam) and Sloan (bars, floor) used the mark to take the wins.
With her two event wins on uneven bars and floor, Sloan pushed herself to sole possession of fourth place on Florida’s career event titles list with 80. Former Florida teammate Kytra Hunter is third with 83 titles.
McMurtry earned her second collegiate win on beam, but tonight’s 9.95 score was a career-high. Her first beam win, at Auburn on Jan. 22, was a 9.90.
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HEAR FROM THE GATORS
“This was my first Link to Pink Meet, and it was an amazing, memorable, touching experience tonight seeing all the cancer survivors and their families and friends out there supporting them. I told the team before the meet that this was a great opportunity for them to go out have fun and do what they love to do, and do it for a great cause while thinking about the others.
“I think we did a great job. We had a few that we needed to rest tonight: Kennedy rested floor, Bridget rested vault. We had some newcomers step up and do a fabulous job, and exactly what we needed to do tonight. I’m really proud of them.” – Florida head coach Jenny Rowland
On the freshman contributing to the team win:
“I’m really proud of the freshman class. To be able to step in at any given time, is not an easy task. Alicia [Boren] doing the all-around at every meet besides the first one, she’s shown her true character and her passion and love for the sport. She’s very dedicated in the gym and it carries over to the competition floor, which is really nice to see. The other four have done a great job, every time we tell them ‘you’re going in tonight’ they are up to the challenge, and they have accepted it and performed to the best of their abilities.” – Florida head coach Jenny Rowland
On tonight’s floor routine:
“I love competing, but I really love competing floor in the O’Dome. Tonight, I went out there, and I had a great time. I have yet to not laugh in a floor routine. I think the best way to show how much you love competing is to smile and have fun, and that’s exactly what I did.” – senior All-American Bridget Sloan
On resting vault tonight:
“You’re going to need rest throughout the season, but it is really hard not doing all four events. You get into a routine. You start on vault, and you get a little of the jitters out and then you go to bars. But it’s a long season, and resting is definitely necessary.” – senior All-American Bridget Sloan
On tonight’s all-around performance:
“I started on vault, and I was kind of nervous. Last time I was a little short, so I tried not to think about the stick. That was really exciting. I went to bars, and I did pretty well. I know there are a few things that I still need to fix. I did normal on beam, which is something new I’m trying to work on. I did a good floor routine, and I smiled more. I had more fun all-around today.” – freshman Alicia Boren
On competing in her first Link to Pink meet:
“The energy was amazing. To have the support from all the survivors and fighters there was awesome. They are there supporting us, and we’re competing from them, so it was great to see them there with smiles on their faces for us as we were doing something for them.” – freshman Alicia Boren
On competing on her birthday:
“I don’t think I could ask for a better one. It’s fun competing in general, but being able to compete for other people makes the success that much greater. My parents were also here, so that was a pretty good gift too.” – freshman Alicia Boren
On her performance tonight:
“I love vault, and I love starting on vault at home meets, so that is a place to get my nerves out. Once our team nails vault, I get confidence to go on to the rest of the meet. I had one of the best bar and beam routines that I ever had. I’m really excited to see what the rest of the season has in store for us. It was definitely a great Link to Pink night and a solid meet for the Gators.” – sophomore All-American Alex McMurtry
On having Rachel Spicer and her mom here tonight:
“We saw Rachel in the locker room before we competed. It felt like it was last year, and we love having her in the locker room. She is one of the biggest spirits and one of the most positive people we had on our team. I loved seeing her tonight.
“We loved having Mickie here, and she is now in remission. It’s great seeing those survivors and fighters. It is just what the whole meet is about. It is close to our hearts, and we will always have Rachel and Mickie Spicer supporting the Gators, and we love wearing pink for them.” – sophomore All-American Alex McMurtry
On her home debut tonight & competing in first Link to Pink meet:
“It was amazing to go out there and make my debut on vault and have fun on floor. It was a lot of fun competing in the O’Dome for the first time with my team.
“It was so much fun competing not just for Gator nation but for the fighters and survivors. It was great to go out there and compete for them.” – freshman Ashley Hiller
On competing tonight for Rachel Spicer and her mom, Mickie:
“Last year, it was really tough. We go out there, and we compete for those who have survived and who are fighting. This year, it was like we were competing for her (Mickie) being able to fight through it, for her being a survivor. And if anyone knows, Mickie Spicer is one of the happiest human beings on this planet. She always has a smile, and Rachel is the same. You can tell they were just excited to be out there. She (Mickie) loves the Florida Gators, and we love her. Tonight we weren’t only competing for ourselves, the Gator Nation, but we were competing for her and all of those who have survived breast cancer and those still fighting.” – senior All-American Bridget Sloan
Florida – Florida is No. 2 in the Feb. 8 Road to Nationals rankings.
Arkansas – Razorbacks No. 9 in Feb. 8 rankings
The Gators continue SEC action when they travel to Columbia, Missouri, to face No. 15 Missouri on Feb. 19. Meet time is set for 7 p.m. ET in the Hearnes Center.
Missouri suffered a loss at No. 25 Kentucky Friday, falling to the Wildcats 196.050-194.675.
The meet airs live on the SEC Network and will also stream on SEC Network +.