McMurtry-led Gator gymnasts defeat Nebraska

    Florida gymnast Alex McMurtry does the "Gator Chomp" during her performance on the floor exercise Friday against Nebraska at the O'Connell Center. The Gators beat the Cornhuskers in the final home meet of the season. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

    By Jim Harvin, Correspondent

    The No. 5 Florida gymnastics team went out with a bang in its final dual meet of the season Friday and senior Alex McMurtry provided the exclamation point on Senior Night.

    McMurtry swept all four event titles and added the all-around crown by tying the UF school record of 39.825 shared by former Gators Alaina Johnson and Bridget Sloan (both in 2014), as UF defeated No. 13 Nebraska, 197.925-196.700, before an Exactech Arena crowd of 5,648.

    That crowd brought Florida’s average attendance this season to 8,304, setting a school record.

    “This is a night that everybody looks forward to and a night that is probably the most emotional meet of the entire season,” UF coach Jenny Rowland said. “However, it was a great finish to the regular season, and something that this team has been doing in practice every day. They brought it out to the competition floor, and it was an exclamation point leading into the postseason.”

    UF improved to 8-2 in dual meets this year, while the Cornhuskers slipped to 11-3.

    Florida started out with a 49.325 in the vault, then added back-to-back scores of 49.575 on the uneven bars and balance beam – the latter a season-high – before closing out with a 49.450 on floor to finish with a team score of 197.925 that is UF’s second-highest of the season, outdone only by a 198.15 mark in a Week 4 upset of No. 1 Oklahoma.

    “The moment I’m going to remember is praying before the meet started and when the national anthem is sung,” McMurtry said. “I always say a prayer to thank God that I have the talent to bring joy to people, to Gator fans. It’s an awesome experience and a blessing to have the ability to touch people’s lives.”

    The four event wins pushed McMurtry’s career total to 68, moving her past former Gators Ann Woods (66) and Ashanee Dickerson (67) into the No. 6 all-time spot at UF.

    Though teammate and fellow senior Kennedy Baker is sidelined for the rest of the season with a torn Achilles’ tendon, she was right there encouraging the Gators on all night.

    “I definitely think that we have the best fans in the country,” Baker said. “I think that when you look around and see every single person cheering for you, it’s just better at the University of Florida, and being in the O-Dome is unmatched.”

    UF freshman Jazmyn Foberg finished third in the vault (9.90) behind co-winners McMurtry and Sienna Crouse of Nebraska, who shared the title with a pair of 9.95s, and Foberg added a second in the uneven bars (9.950) behind McMurtry’s winning 9.975, with teammate Amelia Hundley tying Nebraska’s Crouse for third, both with a 9.925.

    Junior Alicia Boren had a 9.925 to tie Nebraska’s Danielle Breen for second on the balance beam behind McMurtry’s winning 9.975, and McMurtry also won the floor with a 9.925.

    “The thing I’m going to remember is like the atmosphere,” UF senior Rachel Slocum said. “Some people think about it like it’s their last routine in the O-Dome or like the feeling when you look into the crowd and you know that everyone in the stands is pushing for you because they want you to win and they want you to do your best.”

    Next up for UF will be the SEC Championships in St. Louis on March 24.