By Jim Harvin
It was 8:42 p.m. when the sellout crowd of 9,652 fans in the Exactech Arena at the O’Connell Center, after about a 10-minute delay while the final tally was counted, raised the roof when the score was announced at Friday’s gymnastics meet.
No. 5 Florida 198.150, No. 1 Oklahoma 198.125.
It was the first and only lead of the night for the Gators, who somehow found a way to defeat the two-time defending NCAA champions after trailing by a tenth of a point midway through the meet.
They tied the score heading into the final event, only to fall behind again before rallying behind their final two competitors, senior Kennedy Baker and freshman Alyssa Baumann, to post the pulsating victory.
“We were very close the entire meet,” Baker said. “I wasn’t really sure of what the score was. I was just trying to do my best, and that’s what our team tried to do, too.
“I was just thinking about go out and do your best and have fun, and that’s what I did, and having Alyssa anchor after that was just icing on the cake.”
Baker posted a sterling 9.975 to give the Gators hope, and Baumann capped things with an impressive 9.925 that was just enough to ease UF to the finish line by the slimmest of possible margins.
“I mean, you just go out there and you do your best,” Baumann said. “I hadn’t really looked at the scores, but I knew we needed a good one to anchor it. I just went out there and did what I could.”
The improbable win improved the Gators to 3-1 on the young season while the Sooners (3-1), who looked like they had wrapped up the win minutes earlier, closed out the evening with their first loss of the season.
Senior Alex McMurtry, who entered the meet ranked No. 10 all-time in event titles with 51, added two more to bring that total to 53 with a pair of perfect 10s on vault and balance beam, moving her closer to No. 9 Chrissy Van Fleet (1997-00, 55) and No. 8 Corey Hartung (2006-09, 57).
That gave her nine 10s in her career, moving her past former great Bridget Sloan into the top spot all-time at UF.
“I had a great night,” McMurtry said. “I just went out there and started off with a 10. I knew I could have stuck that bar dismount, but it’s all right. It was my first 10 on beam, and that was the highlight of my night.”
McMurtry now has at least one 10 in every event.
Oklahoma’s Maggie Nichols and Anastasia Webb finished 1-2 in the all-around with respective scores of 39.775 and 39.625, with UF’s Alicia Boren third at 39.450.
The OU duo also shared the uneven bars title with identical 9.95s, and Nichols matched UF’s Baker in winning the floor title with her own 9.975.
But in the end, UF prevailed by the slimmest possible margin.
“I loved watching the performances, but just as much I loved watching the sidelines and seeing how encouraging and how uplifting this team is for each other,” UF coach Jenny Rowland said. “It really says a lot, and we talked about how that’s going to carry us through the rest of the season.”
Next up, UF travels to face SEC foe and No. 16 Auburn on Friday, with the meet scheduled to start at 7 p.m.