Gators with extra motivation tonight

Florida gymnast Alicia Boren competes on the bars against Kentucky at Exactech Arena on Jan. 25. [Brad McClenny/Staff photographer]

By Jim Harvin, Correspondent

The No. 12 Auburn Tigers visit the Exactech Arena at the O’Connell Center this evening to face the No. 2 Florida Gators as the only two remaining unbeaten teams in Southeastern Conference gymnastics action square off at 6:45 p.m.

This is also UF’s 13th Link to Pink event, so there is a little something extra on the line as well.

“Being back in the O-Dome is a really huge deal,” UF coach Jenny Rowland said. “To be here for the Link to Pink Meet is for a greater cause. It’s a really special evening for this team, knowing there are a lot of survivors that are close to these young women’s hearts as well as those who unfortunately did not win that battle. It’s always great to go out and compete for something bigger than themselves, and this team takes a lot of pride in this event.”

The Gators (3-1, 3-0 SEC) are coming off a strong effort at No. 1 Oklahoma, in which Florida fell by a mere .30 of a point, 198.325-198.025, last Friday.

It marked the first meet of 2019 where both teams broke the 198 mark.

The Tigers, meanwhile, bring a record of 5-0, 4-0 into the contest.

All-American Alicia Boren, one of just two seniors on this year’s UF roster, said the approach this week has been simple.

“We’re telling the gymnasts to do what you do in every other meet — you know, take it one thing at a time — but also take a chance and enjoy competing for someone else.

“We always compete for the Gator Nation and our team, but really this time we’re competing for all the survivors and everyone who comes. We are going to take a second to go speak to them and congratulate them for making it through their rough journey.”

While Boren will be making her fourth and final Link to Pink appearance, freshman Trinity Thomas is making her first.

“I think we’re definitely getting better every week, and I think that’s very important,” Thomas said. “We’re just slowly climbing the mountain, and we still need to work on our landings, especially on vault. That’s definitely our weakest event, but for our weakest event we’re still pretty darn good at it.”

Thomas and sophomore Alyssa Baumann both won individual awards in the close loss to Oklahoma.

Thomas, who leads UF with six event titles, claimed her third SEC Freshman of the Week honor after finishing first on uneven bars (9.975) and in the all-around (39.625), while sharing the top spot on the floor exercise (9.95) last Friday. Her all-around mark was tops in the nation by a freshman while being the sixth-highest of the weekend.

Baumann, meanwhile, equaled her collegiate-best marks in both of her events, scoring a 9.975 on the balance beam and a 9.95 on the floor.

Rowland noted that tonight’s meet is always special.

“I’m very grateful that we have an opportunity to be able to share with the Gator Community what our Link to Pink is about,” she said. “We get to share that with a lot of survivors that get to come out on the competition floor with us as well.”


Who: No. 12 Auburn vs. No. 2 Florida

When: 6:45 p.m.

Where: Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center

TV: SEC Network