SEC gymnastics title on line tonight when Gators host Crimson Tide

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Florida All-America gymnast Trinity Thomas. [Brad McClenny/Staff photographer]
Who: No. Alabama vs. No. 2 Florida
When: 5:45 p.m. today
Where: Exactech Arena at the O’Connell Center
Note: School colors are set aside as the teams wear pink to show their support for the breast cancer fight.

The Link to Pink meet at the O’Connell Center is a special occasion for the Florida gymnastics team to spread awareness for breast cancer.
Tonight’s 14th Link to Pink meet happens to offer a little something extra.
With a win against No. 8 Alabama (4-3-1, 3-1 SEC) in the Exactech Arena, the No. 2-ranked Gators (7-0, 5-0) can assure themselves of a second straight regular-season SEC championship heading into their conference finale next Friday at Georgia.
“There are so many opportunities that we are thankful for,” UF coach Jenny Rowland said. “This team has done a great job of putting themselves in this position to have this opportunity pretty early in the season. This team is ready.
“It’s something that since the end of last season they’ve been carrying with them but in a very positive way. I’m very proud of how this team has dealt with adversity and really made the most of it. Friday is just another opportunity for them to show themselves and prove to Gator Nation what this team really is all about.”
The Gators are up for the challenge.
“Being able to come home and have the Link to Pink coincide with potentially winning the SEC regular-season championship is just amazing,” senior Sierra Alexander said. “We love Link to Pink because there is so much support and there is really just love out on the floor and in the environment. We’re really, really excited, so hopefully we can bring it home this weekend.”
While this will be Alexander’s final Link to Pink meet, it will be the first for freshman Payton Richards. She is understandably excited.
“The girls have been talking to me about it for the past couple of weeks because they say it’s something that is so special,” Richards said. “We get to compete for something more than Gator Nation, more than our team and more than ourselves.
“I’m really looking forward to it. Personally, having people in my family with breast cancer gives me an even more grateful feeling to be competing at this meet.”
Rowland noted that Link to Pink has a special meaning for UF.
“It’s really hard to put into words,” she said. “I think most of the Gators on the team would agree with that. It is a really special moment and a great opportunity.
“Alabama coming in is a tough competitor. They’re always on their ‘A’ game, so we’ve got to go in and not take anything for granted. Really, just step up and accept the challenge, and the challenge this week is just to be present in the moment and be present in everything that we’re doing in the gym to make the most of that situation on the competition floor. If the Gators do that and they’re enjoying the times of their lives, it’s going to be a successful evening.”