Special to the Sun
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – The No. 5 Florida gymnastics team is off to the NCAA Championships after winning the University Park Regional title Saturday in front of 2,755 at Penn State’s Rec Hall.
Florida advances to St. Louis, Mo., where the NCAA Championships appears for the second consecutive year, on April 20-21.
The Gators turned in a 197.725 Saturday for the team’s seventh consecutive NCAA Regional title. Washington claimed the other NCAA berth at 196.275. Arizona State was third at 195.75, followed by New Hampshire (194.95), Penn State (194.900) and West Virginia (194.40).
“It was a great night,” UF coach Jenny Rowland said. “We came in and did our job and that’s what we set out to do. The team performed tonight like they have been doing in the (practice) gym. This team has a lot to be proud of.”
Senior Alex McMurtry won three event titles, including her second all-around title of 2018. Her winning all-around total of 39.725 is just a tenth away from the school record (39.825) she shares with Bridget Sloan and Alaina Johnson.
The Gators put together a complete meet, with the top Gator score on each event taking the regional title.
“This was really the best meet we have had on the road this year,” Rowland said. “It was really good to see the team perform at this level with the nerves and knowing that they have to qualify to nationals. They handled everything under pressure very well.”
Florida opened the meet on the two power events – floor exercise and vault. A solid floor set led by All-Americans Alicia Boren and Rachel Slocum’s 9.90 gave the Gators a 49.325 for their opening event.
“As a team, I think we had one of the best meet of this season. We still have a few things we can fix, but we are going to be hungry of NCAA’s,” Slocum said.
Gators looked sharp on vault, with the final three posting marks of 9.90 or better – Boren (9.90), Alex McMurtry (9.925) and Rachel Slocum (9.95).
Florida’s 49.50 equals the team’s third-highest uneven bars total this season. Three turned in marks of 9.90 or better – Megan Skaggs (9.90), Rachel Gowey (9.90) and McMurtry (9.975).
The Gators closed the meet on balance beam, again turning in a 49.50. A trio of Gators earned scores of 9.90 or better – Boren (9.90), Gowey (9.925) and McMurtry (9.95).
What: NCAA Gymnastics Championships
When: April 20-21
Where: Chaifetz Arena, St. Louis, Mo.