Updated: Florida finishes second at SEC Gymnastics Championships

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Florida gymnast Trinity Thomas performs her floor exercise routine. [Lauren Bacho/Gainesville Sun/File]

Special to Gatorsports.com

NEW ORLEANS — Florida, the SEC regular-season gymnastics champion, fell just short of making it a double title sweep Saturday at the league championship meet inside Smoothie King Center where 10,505 fans watched.

LSU won its third consecutive SEC meet championship with a score of 197.900. Florida followed with a 197.750, then came Alabama (197.350), Georgia (197.000), Arkansas (196.475), Auburn (196.375), Kentucky (196.225) and Missouri (195.900).

The Tigers’ Sarah Finnegan won the all-around title with a score of 39.800. Finnegan also won individual titles on Bars (9.950), tied on Beam (9.950) and sealed the LSU win when her floor exercise earned a perfect 10 to edge out the Gators, who led entering the final performance. LSU led all teams on vault (49.375), bars (49.475) and used a 49.60 on floor to claim the title.

“I know this team is going to take away a lot [from tonight],” UF coach Jenny Rowland said. “It was bittersweet. Lots of fabulous performances, some really good performances and this is something we’re going to remember for a little bit. I think it’s only going to help push us to just get that much better towards the end of the season.”

The top balance beam total was a meet record 49.625 by the Gators. Florida finished with its third-best vault total of the season (49.275), but couldn’t keep pace with LSU’s floor scores on the final rotation.

UF sophomore Alyssa Baumann won her second consecutive SEC beam title, becoming the first to win beam in consecutive seasons since Georgia’s Kim Arnold won a share of the 1997 and 1998 SEC titles.

Junior Rachel Gowey returned from a four-meet layoff from beam competition to equal her collegiate-best for the third time and sophomore Megan Skaggs raised her collegiate best to 9.95 to win beam.

Florida freshman sensation Trinity Thomas won the vault with a 9.950 and Alabama’s Lexi Graber won the balance beam. It was Thomas’s collegiate-best for the second consecutive meet. Thomas is the first in SEC gymnastics history to claim a SEC Weekly honor after each week of competition.

UF sophomore Alyssa Baumann won her second consecutive SEC beam title, becoming the first to win beam in consecutive seasons since Georgia’s Kim Arnold won a share of the 1997 and 1998 SEC titles.

Junior Rachel Gowey returned from a four-meet layoff from beam competition to equal her collegiate-best for the third time and sophomore Megan Skaggs raised her collegiate best to 9.95 to win beam.

Making the All-SEC team (comprised of the student-athletes with the top two event scores (including ties) were Baumann (Beam, Floor), Gowey (Beam), Skaggs (Bars, Beam), Savannah Schoenherr (Bars) and Thomas (Vault, Floor, All-Around, Vault).

“I have a lot of pride; I have a lot of joy for this team,” Rowland said. “Lots of emotion going on – a little sad but for the most part, there were so many superb performances by this team tonight. Of course, little things here, little things there [hurt the scoring potential].

“You can tell our freshman class was a little nervous. This is the first time that some of them have been on a podium. But it was a great opportunity for to get their feet wet and to get ready for the final meets of post season.”

The last time the Gators brought home the title from the SEC Championships was in 2016,  Rowland’s first year in Gainesville.

Half of the nation’s top-10 teams (No. 3 LSU, No. 4 Florida, No. 8 Georgia, No. 9 Kentucky, No. 10 Alabama) were among the eight-team SEC field. No other conference in the nation has more than two among the current top 10.

All of the nation’s top-10 totals this season have come from four teams – UCLA, Florida, LSU and Oklahoma.

Florida won the 2019 SEC regular-season title with its 6-1 record. This is the third season for a regular-season championship.

NCAA Regional competition is next on the gymnastics calendar April 4-6. The national championships April 19-20 will be held in Fort Worth, Texas. Four sites (Ann Arbor, Mich., Athens, Ga., Baton Rougue, La., and Corvallis, Ore.) will play host to NCAA Regional action. The reveal is Monday at 5 p.m.

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