By Jim Harvin
It will be more than just a top-notch collegiate gymnastics battle when No. 5 Florida and No. 11 Arkansas meet in the O’Connell Center this evening at 6:45.
It also marks UF’s 12th Link to Pink meet in support of breast cancer awareness, always one of the most popular events of the season.
“It’s the middle of the season and I think we’ve made great strides so far,” UF coach Jenny Rowland said. “We’ve had some spectacular performances here and there and incredible moments as a team and incredible moments as individuals.
“We’re really just starting to focus on trying to get those lineups solidified here in the next couple of weeks and get ready for postseason. All in all, executions and landings, the team has just been doing a fabulous job stepping up every day in the gym and transferring that onto the competition floor.”
Florida (6-1, 4-1 SEC) has won five straight meets while Arkansas (2-4, 2-4), which began the season with six straight SEC dual meets, comes in after placing fourth of four teams in last week’s Gym Quarters Invitational in St. Louis.
Five different Gators set eight season- or collegiate-best marks in last Friday’s win at Georgia.
Two Gators equaled their 2018 uneven bars best — sophomore Amelia Hundley (9.925) and senior Alex McMurtry, who posted a winning score of 9.975.
Junior Alicia Boren, who has competed in the all-around in 34 consecutive meets, is coming off her third consecutive all-around title and fourth of the season.
She equaled her collegiate best of 9.95 for the sixth time in her career to claim her first vault title of 2018 last Friday.
McMurtry (9.925) and senior Rachel Slocum (9.90) also had excellent vaults, and McMurtry was nearly perfect with a 9.975 on uneven bars in garnering the 20th bars win of her career while Slocum added a sparkling 9.95 on floor.
What: SEC gymnastics meet, the 12th Gators Link to Pink, aimed to raise awareness about breast cancer prevention and treatment.
Who: No. 11 Arkansasl vs. No. 5 Florida
When: 6:45 p.m.
Where: O’Connell Center
In addition, freshman Alyssa Baumann has scored a season-high 9.975 on the beam and a 9.925 on floor.
“I knew that coming in I had just had two surgeries, so I was just hoping to do the best that I could,” Baumann said. “I think that I’ve had a lot of success so far and I’m hoping to build off of that.”
Baumann is excited about her first Link to Pink meet.
“I’ve heard that it’s a lot of fun and I think that it’s great to be competing for a cause,” she said. “I know that we always do better when we’re competing not just for ourselves, but for something greater.”
Sophomore Sierra Alexander, who suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon recently and is out for the season, will again be cheering on her teammates.
Tonight’s meet will air tape-delayed on ESPNU at 8 p.m. Sunday, with former Gator great Bridget Sloan calling the action.
Breast cancer survivors will welcome the team to the floor and 3,500 pink Gators Gymnastics T-Shirts will be handed out courtesy of UF Health.
“The Link to Pink is really a special event for this team year-in and year-out,” Rowland said. “To be able to help others raise awareness and just be thankful for those survivors and remember those who have suffered through this hard time. Really it’s just a great opportunity to compete for something bigger than ourselves.”