Special report on Florida Gators gymnastics
DENTON, Texas – The preseason No. 2 Florida gymnastics team opened the season and UF’s Jenny Rowland‘s head coaching career with a win at Texas Woman’s University.
Florida turned in a 196.825, the fourth-highest among the program’s 44 season-opening performances. Texas Woman’s University posted a 191.45.
|Florida Event Winners Friday|
|Uneven Bars:||Bridget Sloan||9.875|
|Balance Beam||Alicia Boren||9.900|
|Floor Exercise||Kennedy Baker||9.900|
As expected with the first meet of the season, there were a few skills that will be sharpened in upcoming training sessions. But it was a solid effort, with four different freshmen contributing to the Gators final team tally.
The Gators swept the meet events, with senior All-American Bridget Sloan taking at least a share of three titles – all-around, uneven bars and shared the floor exercise win with sophomore Kennedy Baker. Sophomore Alex McMurtry continued her winning ways on vault, claiming her eighth title for the event with the meet’s high mark of the evening (9.925).
Balance beam looked far past early season form, as the team total of 49.425 is second only the 2004 season-opening beam total of 49.45 at the 2004 Super Six Challenge. Two Gators shared their first collegiate balance beam win at 9.90 – sophomoreEricha Fassbender and freshman Alicia Boren. Everyone in the lineup scored a 9.85 or better, including a trio of 9.875s by Baker, McMurtry and freshman Peyton Ernst.
GATOR PERFORMANCE NOTES:
- Bridget Sloan‘s three titles (all-around, bars, floor) pushes her career total of event wins to 71. She is the fifth Gator to pass the 70-event wins threshold.
- Sophomore Alex McMurtry won vault with a nearly-perfect 9.925. Seems a bit off a perfect mark? That’s due to the vault McMurtry performed, a Yurchenko full, is now valued at 9.95. In previous seasons, the maximum value for the Yurchenko full was a 10.0.
- Fassbender’s 9.90 to share the beam win equaled her collegiate best set Feb. 13, 2015.
- The Gators went one-two in the all-around. Baker’s 39.40 is her second-highest all-around total of her collegiate career.
- Sloan used UF’s third-highest season-opening total (39.50) to win her 19th all-around title. Only four in UF history have won 20 or more all-around titles.
RECORDS: Florida (1-0, 0-0 SEC); Texas Woman’s University (0-1, 0-0 Midwest Independent).
THE SERIES: Florida leads the series 2-0.
HEAR FROM COACH ROWLAND
Thoughts on first meet with the Gators:
“So incredibly proud of this team. We knew there would be mistakes, but that’s ok because we don’t need to be at our best right now. We came in and did what we needed to do.”
The team finished strong on beam. Was that expected?
“We’ve been working really hard in the gym. It’s about showing your confidence in competition and really pleased they were able to execute that tonight.”
What are some of the things the team is focusing on?
“Our theme this year is to focus on the process and enjoy that journey. We aren’t focusing on the destination. One other theme we have is “Designed to Go Far”. It is just knowing that anything and everything that happens in our lives makes us the person we are. We want to build on that day after day.”
Your highlight of the meet?
“The highlight of the meet was the freshmen stepping in and filling some spots. We weren’t expecting some to be in the lineup today but very proud of them. They did great today.”
LONE STAR GATORS
Texas is the home state for six Gators – junior Claire Boyce, sophomores Kennedy Baker, Ericha Fassbender and Grace McLaughlin plus freshmen Peyton Ernst andAshley Hiller.
The Lone Star state is known for producing some of the nation’s top gymnasts. In the 2015 NCAA Championships, 31 of the competitors across the 12 teams were from Texas. Of the preseason top 25 teams, all but five have at least one resident of Texas on their roster. The top two teams in the preseason poll – Oklahoma and Florida – lead with six Texas gymnasts each.
This was Florida’s first visit to Texas for a dual meet since Feb. 14, 1981 when the Gators were in Austin to face the Longhorns…the Gators have opened the season with an all-around win in each of the past 11 seasons and a team win each of the past six years…four Gator freshmen made their collegiate debuts Friday - Alicia Boren,Amanda Cheney, Peyton Ernst and Ashley Hiller.
Preseason National Rank:
Florida - Florida is No. 2 in the Road to Nationals preseason poll. Florida has appeared among the preseason top four teams each of the last 10 years (2007: 3rd; 2008: 2nd; 2009: 3rd; 2010: 4th; 2011: 3rd; 2012: 3rd,2013: 3rd; 2014: 1st; 2015: 1st).
The Gators’ 2016 home opener brings preseason No. 6 UCLA to town on Friday, Jan. 15. Meet time is set for 6:45 p.m. in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
Welcome the three-time NCAA champion Gators back to their home arena with some bling. Light-up national championship rings go to the first 1,000 at the O’Connell Center Friday. Come early to get your picture taken with Florida’s three NCAA Championship trophies (Gate 4, beginning at 5:15 p.m.).
UCLA opens its season Sunday when preseason No. 3 Alabama visits Los Angeles.
Tickets for Friday’s meet are $5 for adults, while children 17 and under and UF students with a Gator1 card are admitted free.
Still time for Florida fans to purchase 2016 season tickets to avoid the ticket lines and breeze into the O’Connell Center on meet nights. Visit the Gators ticket site for complete information.
A live stream of the UF-UCLA meet can be seen at the SEC Network for all SEC Network subscribers.