Gators ranked No. 3 in preseason gymnastics poll

Florida coach Jenny Rowland congratulates gymnast Megan Skaggs at a meet last season. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun/File]

Florida begins 2020 as the No. 3 team in the Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association preseason poll.

The top five in the 2020 preseason poll are No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 2 LSU, No. 3 Florida, No. 4 UCLA and No. 5 Utah.

Florida’s been among the nation’s preseason top five every season since 2007 (2007: 3rd; 2008: 2nd; 2009: 3rd; 2010: 4th; 2011: 3rd; 2012: 3rd, 2013: 3rd; 2014: 1st, 2015: 1st, 2016: 2nd, 2017: 5th; 2018: 2nd; 2019: 3rd, 2020: 3rd).

Florida faces opponents ranked among the preseason top 25 in its opening nine meets, including home dates vs. No. 2 LSU (Jan. 24), No. 7 Denver (Feb. 7), No. 10 Alabama (Feb. 21), No. 19 Arkansas (Jan. 10) and No. 20 Iowa State (Feb. 7). The Gators face three top 15 preseason teams on the road – No. 8 Georgia (Feb. 28), No. 12 Kentucky (Jan. 31) and No. 13 Auburn (Feb. 14). Other preseason ranked Gator road opponents include No. 16 Missouri (Jan. 17) and No. 25 Penn State (March 7).

Florida returns six with 17 All-America honors  – Alyssa Baumann, Rachel Gowey, Amelia Hundley. Savannah Schoenherr, Megan Skaggs and Trinity Thomas. Four of those All-Americans are also defending Southeastern Conference event champions – Baumann (balance beam), Gowey (beam), Skaggs (beam) and Thomas (vault).

Half of Florida’s roster have been a part of either (or both) U.S. Senior or Junior National Teams, as Thomas is the only current member of the U.S. Senior National Team to be on a 2020 NCAA roster. Others Gators who were a U.S. National Team member include Baumann, Jazmyn Foberg, Gowey, Hundley, Sydney Johnson-Scharpf and Skaggs. Senior Maegan Chant also was a four-time member of Canada’s National Team.

Other returners include senior Sierra Alexander and sophomores Leah Clapper, Nya Reed and Halley Taylor – all who competed or performed exhibition routines in 2019.

One freshman joins the Gators in 2020 – Payton Richards of Mokena, Ill. A three-time Junior Olympic National Championships champion (2017 Senior beam; 2016 Junior all-around, beam), Richards is a 2019, 2018 and 2017 Region 5 All-Star Team selection.

Cheering the Gators is the place for Florida fans on Friday evenings. The team drew a school record average of 8,333 a meet last season.

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