By Jim Harvin, Correspondent
The No. 2 Florida gymnastics team remained unbeaten on the season with wins over No. 4 Denver and No. 18 Iowa State at the O’Connell Center on Friday.
Before an Exactech Arena crowd of 8,323, the Gators finished with a team score of 197.875 to improve to 6-0 midway through the regular-season, with Denver (197.250) second and Iowa State (196.80) third in the first tri-meet held in the O-Dome since 2012.
UF’s score was its second-highest in five meets, outdone only by the Gators’ season-best mark of 198.375 set two weeks ago in a win over LSU.
“Wow, what a night for the Gators,” UF coach Jenny Rowland said. “I think first and foremost we have to really be thankful for Gator Nation to show up in full support. It was a great evening even though it was a non-SEC meet, but very thankful that we had a lot of fans to help our team through the four events.”
Rowland noted that UF had been fighting illness all week leading up to the meet.
“We had a little bit of adversity throughout the week, and everybody’s a little strained just from being sick,” she said. “However, they did a good job of stepping up and just being normal and doing what they needed to do in order to have each other’s back. That was really good to see everybody step up in that way.”
The only previous loss for Denver (10-2) came against top-ranked Oklahoma. Iowa State, meanwhile, slipped to 4-5 with the double loss.
The meet was fairly tight from start to finish, but Florida never trailed. The Gators scored a 49.225 on their opening event, the vault, then added a 49.450 on the uneven bars for a leading score of 98.675 at the halfway point.
They were just getting started.
UF followed with back-to-back scores of 49.600 on the balance beam and floor exercise to turn back both opponents and secure the win.
Trinity Thomas once again led the way, scoring her second 10 of the season, this one in winning the beam to close out the event.
She also shared the floor exercise title with teammate Alyssa Baumann, both with a 9.975, then capped her night by matching her personal-best score of 39.775 to win the all-around competition.
“I had a really fun time tonight,” Thomas said. “Everybody started off strong and they all talked to me and I just knew what I had to do.”
Denver’s Maddie Karr won the vault with a perfect 10, with teammate Linzee Brown second with a 9.975 and Florida’s Thomas third with a 9.90.
Florida’s Savannah Schoenherr shared the uneven bars title with Iowa State’s Natalia Ros Vaquer, each with a 9.95 while Thomas tied three other gymnasts for third at 9.90.
“I’ve been working really hard to get into the lineup,” Schoenherr noted. “Just really working on those tiny details that are really going to make the difference and working for that 10.”
Teammate Sydney Johnson-Scharp also had a big night, scoring a personal-best 9.925 on floor and adding a 9.85 on beam.
In addition, Payton Richards, the lone freshman on this year’s team, set or tied three personal-bests: 9.95 (beam) and 9.85 (bars and floor) en route to finishing third in the all-around (39.475).
Next up for the Gators is a road meet at Auburn on Friday.