By Jim Harvin, Correspondent
The third-ranked Florida gymnastics team opened the 2019 season in style Friday by defeating No. 11 Missouri, 197.300-196.450, before the second-largest season-opening crowd (8,446) in program history in the Exactech Arena.
Senior Alicia Boren led the way for UF, winning the all-around title with a score of 39.575 and sharing event titles on the vault (9.875) with the Tigers’ Hannah McCrary, on the balance beam with teammate Rachel Gowey (9.90), and on the floor exercise with freshman teammate Nya Reed (9.925).
“Wow,” said UF coach Jenny Rowland. “I told the team at the end of the competition and I’d like to say it is the best compliment ever. They were super-normal tonight. What they did out on the competition floor was what we’ve been training in the gym.”
Things didn’t go smoothly for Florida on its first rotation (vault) as the Gators could only register one score above 9.775 (Boren’s 9.875) en route to a team score of 48.925.
The Tigers (3-1), meanwhile, started solid on the uneven bars with a 49.125 to grab the early lead.
But UF bounced back to take the lead with a 49.50 on the bars while Missouri could only muster a 49.00 on the vault to trail 98.425-98.125 at the midway point.
The Gators added some more breathing room with a 49.40 on the beam while the Tigers put up a 49.20 on the floor exercise, and then put it away with a solid 49.475 on the floor with Mizzou finishing up with a 49.125 on beam.
“It was really exciting,” Boren said. “It was just another meet. I had my teammates’ backs and I knew that they had mine. They definitely kept me calm because it was the most comfortable I’ve ever been.”
Freshman Trinity Thomas finished just a tenth of a point behind Boren in the all-around, scoring a 39.40 while claiming her first event title with a winning mark of 9.95 on the uneven bars.
Sophomore Megan Skaggs (9.925) was second and Boren, junior Amelia Hundley and freshman Savannah Schoenherr all tied for third as the Gators swept the event.
“We’ve been having so much fun in the gym, and this was just another day in the gym,” Thomas said. “My teammates were amazing.”
Rowland was understandably pleased with the results.
“I know the team was itching and ready to go,” she said. “We started a week later than most of the teams, but I think it did us good. After this meet it should just continue. You know, if this is what jitters look like first meet out, then it’s going to be a spectacular year.”
Next up, the Gators will travel to Baton Rouge to take on LSU on Friday night at 9 p.m.
NOTES: With 15 student-athletes on this year’s roster, it didn’t take long for UF’s improved depth to come into play. Alyssa Baumann, a two-time All-America as a freshman, suffered a fall on the uneven bars in Thursday’s practice and was transported to Shands Hospital for a precautionary evaluation. She is expected to make a full recovery but did not compete against the Tigers. The timetable for her return is not yet determined. She was joined on the sidelines by sophomore Jazmyn Foberg, who is recovering from elbow surgery.