No. 3 Florida edges No. 5 LSU in SEC gymnastics

Florida's Alicia Boren performs her floor exercise during a match against Missouri on Jan. 11 in the O'Connell Center. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)

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BATON ROUGE, La. – It was exactly what was expected for a meeting of top-five gymnastics teams Friday night. After trading the lead back and forth, it was No. 3 Florida hitting every routine on its final rotation to surge ahead to take a 197.50 – 197.425 win at No. 5 Louisiana State.

Tonight’s attendance of 12,093 at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center is the seventh highest in LSU history. Three of LSU’s top seven crowds are versus Florida.

“Super excited and joyful for this team,” UF coach Jenny Rowland said. “They reaped the benefits tonight of the hard work they have been putting in the gym. They’ve been going in day in and day out, putting in the numbers like everyone else, but when we come out on the floor there was such a sense of calmness that is such an eerie feeling, but a great feeling as well.

“But this team did a fabulous job. I’d say we came out a little timid tonight, a little reserved, nothing extreme, but a little cautious. But after the first event, the Gators started getting on a roll so I was very proud to see them settle down a bit and just do what they’ve been doing.”

Florida(2-0, 2-0 SEC) now leads the all-time series between the two schools, 71-40, after winning here for the first time since 2011. Florida’s 0.075 margin of victory tonight is the 17th span of half a point or less in the last 21 meetings.

Rachel Gowey won the balance beam for Florida.

LSU senior Sarah Finnegan won all-around (39.70), vault (9.925), bars (9.975) and shared the floor win at 9.95 with UF freshman Trinity Thomas.

Gators opened with a solid uneven bars set, led by Thomas’ team high 9.925. Florida also received 9.90s from Amelia Hundley and Megan Skaggs. Florida led by the slenderest of margins, 0.025 after the opening rotation.

The Tigers(1-2, 0-2) took a midpoint two-tenths lead after its final three uneven bars performers went 9.925 or better. Thomas’ 9.875 was the Gators’ top vault score among UF’s season-high event total of 49.225.

Florida used three consecutive floor marks of 9.9 or better to narrow the Tiger lead to 0.075 heading into the final rotation. Florida’s Nya Reed and Alicia Boren each posted 9.90 and Thomas posted UF’s season-best of 9.95 to share the event title.

A six-for-six balance beam set gave the Gators the winning margin. The final four Gators – Boren, Gowey, Thomas and Alyssa Baumann – all turned in marks of 9.9 or better. Gowey’s 9.925 won the evening’s beam title.

“I can’t even put it into words right now and what this team feels. Honestly going into beam we were a little shaky here and there but then we got it together and did what we know best which is to just be normal. We feel so good,” UF senior All-American Alicia Boren said.

The Gators next host to No. 15 Kentucky in a meet that starts off a SEC Network triple-header at 5:45 p.m. Friday.