Special report on the Florida Gators gymnastics team:
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – No. 2 Florida claims its second consecutive Southeastern Conference gymnastics title with Friday’s win over No. 8 Alabama.
The top two gymnastics teams in league standings met Friday in front of a sellout Exactech Arena crowd. The Gators led the meet from the first rotation and added to the margin to claim the win, 198.05 – 197.45, over the Tide.
Florida’s 198.05 is the nation’s No. 5 total of the 2020 season. Half of the nation’s top 10 totals of 2020 belong to the Gators.
* Florida claims its 12th SEC title and second consecutive (1982, ’83, ’84, ’85, ’89, ’07, ’10, ’12, ’13, 16, ’19, ‘20). This is the fourth year for the awarding of a regular-season SEC gymnastics title. From 1981-2016, the winner at the SEC Championship meet was considered the league champion.
* Florida athletics leads all league programs with 246 SEC team titles.
Florida’s win tonight clinches the SEC title with one league meet remaining on its schedule (Feb. 28 at No. 11 Georgia). The Gators are 6-0 in league action and all other teams have at least two SEC losses.
Florida’s opening rotation was highlighted by a perfect vault score for senior Sierra Alexander. Her soaring Yurchenko full earned a 9.95 – the vault’s maximum value. She took second in the event to Alabama’s Lexi Graber’s 9.975. Two other Gators scored a 9.90 – Trinity Thomas and Gator sophomore Savannah Schoenherr.
Little hops on landing kept the Gators from reaching their full potential on the uneven bars. Alabama’s Makarri Doggette won the bars title at 9.95. Florida’s Amelia Hundley and Thomas shared second at 9.90.
Florida powered past an early miss in the beam lineup to equal its school-record total of 49.675. Every counting score was a 9.9 or better. The back half of the lineup was stellar, with 9.95s by Rachel Gowey and Thomas. Sophomore Leah Clapper anchored with her collegiate-best 9.975 to claim her first event title.
Floor produced consistent marks of 9.9 from four consecutive Gators. Junior Alyssa Baumann broke that trend with a bang, winning the evening’s event title by matching her collegiate best of 9.975.
Thomas won her fifth consecutive all-around (39.65) and freshman Payton Richards was third (39.425). Alabama’s Graber was just a fraction away from her season best, as she was runner-up at 39.625.
GATOR PERFORMANCE NOTES:
* Tonight’s sellout Exactech Arena crowd of 9,301 is the top Gators Link to Pink crowd in the event’s 14-year history. It is the No. 4 crowd since the reopening for the 2017 season.
* This is the 58th consecutive time both Florida and Alabama brought a top-10 ranking into a meeting (dating back to 2002 NCAA Championships). Tonight’s meeting between No. 2 Florida and No. 8 Alabama was the nation’s only top-10 meeting of the day.
* Alexander’s perfect 9.95 for her Yurchenko full set her collegiate best for the second consecutive meet. Last week at Auburn, Alexander equaled her then best of 9.875 for the fifth time.
* Clapper returned to the Gator lineup last week at Auburn, equaling her then best of 9.875. She is the third among the 2020 Gators with a collegiate beam best of 9.975, joining Baumann and Gowey. Thomas twice has posted a beam 10.0.
* Tonight’s performance was the second 9.975 on floor for Baumann. She set her collegiate best in the Feb. 7 tri-meet.
* Florida is the 2020 leader on balance beam. With its 49.675 event total tonight, Florida is the first program in NCAA history to post a team total of 49.50 or better in five consecutive meets. UCLA twice recorded four-meet strings of 49.50-plus in their history.
* This is the first time in the 37 all-time regular-season meetings between these two programs that Florida won three consecutive (2018 home, 2019 away, 2020 home).
* Collegiate best set or equaled tonight by the Gators:
* Sierra Alexander – 9.95 (vault)
* Alyssa Baumann – 9.975 (floor)
* Leah Clapper – 9.975 (beam)
* Rachel Gowey – 9.90 (floor)
* Payton Richards – 9.85 (floor)
* Savannah Schoenherr – 9.90 (vault)
RECORDS: Florida (8-0, 6-0 SEC), Alabama (4-4-1, 3-2 SEC)
THE SERIES: Alabama leads the Florida series 74-47-2.
ABOUT LINK TO PINK:
Tonight was the 14th Annual Gators Link to Pink meet. These meets are part of a Southeastern Conference initiative and most of the league’s teams will participate in a “pink” meet this season. Team colors are set aside as the teams wear pink to show their support for the breast cancer fight.
HEAR FROM THE GATORS:
“Someone asked me what tonight meant and how proud I am of these athletes – I cannot say enough about this team’s dedication, determination and focus this season. They have come from point A to point B and how they’ve carried themselves and worked together as a team is wonderful. They have fought hand and hand. Props to the entire team – that is one of the things I have been most thankful for, the way they have been handling this season thus far. Really looking forward to a great second half of the season. That fire is shining bright in their hearts. Looking forward to celebrating a great evening, then taking a step forward to see what is next for this team.” – Florida Head Coach Jenny Rowland
On Sierra Alexander’s performance on vault:
“Phenomenal. It was a long time coming and she has been doing a really great job in the gym of focusing. Sometimes she is trying too hard, getting into her head – it’s a constant battle, it’s not always rainbows and butterflies. It is a constant battle with themselves, especially when we are just talking about sticking a vault, but she performed it perfectly this evening and was rewarded for it.” – Florida Head Coach Jenny Rowland
On going into rivalry week with Georgia:
“I feel like I have been a broken record, but at the same time, it is something we have been talking a lot about as a team is building the foundation. This team did a great job of doing that both this past summer and past fall. They have been building the foundation week in and week out in the gym – they have been showing more confidence and everyone has been getting better in the gym. After a solid performance tonight, it will be easy to get back into the gym on Sunday to prepare for our next opportunity. We are taking it day-by-day, trying to get better each day and we are looking forward to each opportunity that is presented every day, as well as Friday nights.” – – Florida Head Coach Jenny Rowland
Florida – Florida is No. 2 in the Week 7 Road to Nationals rankings<https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__roadtonationals.com_results_standings_season_2020_7_0_5&d=DwIFJg&c=sJ6xIWYx-zLMB3EPkvcnVg&r=o5LKAX7slotfFMyE71jI7L22NYBIi1-KbRGNSXudTPo&m=cgRx9OF43qOK9NETuFnzPgnN6WMaTPe8CY0GuQUBPy0&s=DyVgJPUj7oaf_MnXarTxMXFA0p_ogep6xdIWjcM-vPk&e=>.
Alabama – The Tide is No. 8
Florida finishes Southeastern Conference regular season action Friday at No. 11 Georgia.