Special to Gatorsports.com
ATHENS, Ga. – As if the No. 2 Florida gymnastics team needed any more motivation for the rivalry meet at No. 10 Georgia, a video message from a fan gave the team some fuel Friday.
That fan? Florida football coach Dan Mullen.
His message is one that echoes through Gator Nation, which is “Beat the Bulldogs” in whatever sport the two teams meet.
Florida heard that message, defeating Georgia 197.80 – 196.50 in front of a sellout Stegeman Coliseum crowd of 9,695.
Tonight’s win gives Florida its first undefeated SEC regular-season at 7-0.
“It really was a special night and a great exclamation to our SEC regular season,” UF coach Jenny Rowland said. “Being the first team in program history with an undefeated SEC regular season is just a testament to this team’s commitment in and out of the gym.
“This team knew tonight that they had an opportunity to secure an undefeated SEC season for the first time in program history. This team totally accepted that challenge. They heard some great motivational words from Coach Dan Mullen and they really took that to heart. All night on the competition floor, they were saying ‘Do it for Dan!’ We did as we were told, which was beat those Bulldogs.”
Beginning in 1992, all league teams met during regular season action. Florida’s was unbeaten in the 2007 season with a 5-0-1 record. That tie? It came when No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Georgia tied at 197.25 on Jan. 28, 2007 in Stegeman Coliseum.
In the nation’s only top-10 dual of the evening, Florida led from the opening rotation.
Florida Florida (9-0 overall) opened on bars, with sophomore Trinity Thomas anchoring with a near-perfect 9.975 to claim the event title. Junior Megan Skaggs took second at 9.875 and sophomore Savannah Schoenherr shared third at 9.85 with UGA’s Megan Roberts.
When Thomas and Schoenherr moved to vault, they both equaled their collegiate-best marks. Thomas won the evening’s vault competition at 9.95 and Schoenherr took third at 9.90. At the midway point, Florida owned a 0.60 lead over Georgia (8-6, 2-3 SEC).
Florida’s final two competitors – Thomas and Alyssa Baumann – led the Gators on floor. Thomas won floor with a 9.95 and Baumann shared second at 9.90 with Georgia’s Sabrina Vega.
On its closing event, Florida was just a fraction away from its school balance beam record (49.675) with its 49.65 total tonight. The final four Gators all turned in marks of 9.9 or better. Baumann won the beam competition after equaling her collegiate best of 9.975. Thomas and sophomore Leah Clapper shared second at 9.95 and senior Rachel Gowey added a 9.9.
Thomas claimed her sixth consecutive all-around at 39.825 – equaling Florida’s record and the nation’s No. 2 total in 2020.
Florida’s Spring Break trip is to No. 23 Penn State, at 4 p.m. March 7.
GATOR PERFORMANCE NOTES
* Florida’s 197.80 equals the nation’s No. 13 total of 2020. Six of the top 15 totals belong to the Gators.
*Florida’s 49.65 is No. 4 on its all-time best beam totals chart. The Gators have scored a 49.5 or better on the event in its last six meets, which is the longest stretch for 49.5-plus beam totals in NCAA history.
*The 1.30 point victory is the largest for the Gators in Athens since SEC competition began in the 1981 season.
*Thomas’ winning all-around total of 39.825 equals the program record and shares second among the nation’s 2020 gymnasts.
*Sharing school all-around record with:
*Alex McMurtry (3/9/18)
*Bridget Sloan (3/14/14)
*Alaina Johnson (3/7/14)
*Thomas now owns half of the nation’s top eight all-around totals of 2020:
*No. T2 39.825 (2-28-20)
*No. T5 39.775 (1-24-20, 2-7-20, 2-15-20)