By Jim Harvin, Correspondent
At 6:45 p.m. Friday, the No. 5 Florida gymnastics team will close out its 2018 regular-season schedule with a dual meet against No. 13 Nebraska in the Exactech Arena at the O’Connell Center.
It will be Senior Night, with Alex McMurtry, Kennedy Baker, Grace McLaughlin and Rachel Slocum all making their final appearances in the O-Dome, along with team manager Casey McLaughlin.
“I know I’m going to get emotional this weekend at the meet, but I think the biggest thing I’m going to try and focus on is just to live in the moment of running out of the Gator head for the last time and watching the crowd erupt when I’m about to go,” said McMurtry, a 15-time All-American. “Just be there and be in the present so I can remember those moments.”
UF (7-2, 5-2 SEC) is looking to rebound from last Friday’s 196.925-196.70 loss at No. 20 league foe Missouri (6-6, 2-5) that was the first win in 23 all-time meetings for the Tigers and ended a six-meet Florida winning streak.
The Cornhuskers come in 11-2, 5-0 Big Ten.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing a solid Friday night competition,” UF coach Jenny Rowland said.
“We are able to solidify a little bit more of our lineup. Megan Skaggs and Jazzy Foberg are recovering from little dings in the middle of the season, so we’ll be seeing them on floor and vault. We’re really looking to use the momentum of each other and every routine and build off it. I think that’s something that we haven’t taken advantage of this season.”
McMurtry won three event titles (vault, bars and beam) for the second consecutive meet to highlight UF’s effort last week, while junior Alicia Boren and freshman Alyssa Baumann shared the floor exercise title, with the winning score of 9.925 tying a collegiate-high for Baumann.
In addition, Boren captured her sixth all-around title of the season and fifth consecutive with a 39.50.
“I think we’ve had some ups and downs this season, and to have this be our last meet is something we’ve been working for all season, especially to honor the seniors,” sophomore Amelia Hundley said. “It’s going to be a big deal, and I think when we compete for something bigger than ourselves and for a different cause, it helps us a lot just in terms of taking our minds off gymnastics and be the best we can be.
“I’m really excited for this weekend and I think we’re going to do really well.”
All of Florida’s seniors are available except for Baker, who tore her Achilles’ tendon while performing the closing routine at the last home meet two weeks ago against Arkansas.
She will join sophomore teammate Sierra Alexander, who suffered the same injury at practice on Jan. 31, on the sidelines.
“I think 24-for-24 (routines) would be a fabulous way to finish off our regular season,“ Rowland said. “I’m really looking forward to this team making the most of our last home meet in front of Gator Nation and enjoying the moment. This senior class has done a tremendous job of leading this team, and it’s a great honor for them and for our underclassmen to just do gymnastics for themselves and also have fun for their seniors.”
Next up will be the 2018 SEC Championships on March 24 in St. Louis.