Florida looks to clinch share of SEC title

Florida All-American gymnast Alyssa Baumann competes on the beam during a meet against Kentucky last month at Exactech Arena. Baumann's sister, Rachel, competes for Georgia. [Brad McClenny/Staff photographer]

By Jim Harvin, Correspondent

Coming off their first dual-meet road win over Alabama since 1979, the third-ranked Florida Gators are back home in the Exactech Arena to face No. 7 Georgia Friday at 6:45 p.m. in the O’Connell Center.

“Really, I think this team is in an amazing spot right now, coming off a great win at Alabama,” UF gymnastics coach Jenny Rowland said. “It was the first time in 40 years. This team really is on a high and carrying it with them, which is great.

“There are things that it’s great to carry with you and some things that you need to leave behind, but riding on that win is a wonderful thing.”

UF (5-1, 5-0), which downed the Tide by a 197.325-196.475 margin, will face a Georgia squad that stands 5-3, 3-2 but has won three straight Southeastern Conference meets after an 0-2 start.

The GymDogs would like nothing better than to spoil the Gators’ unbeaten league mark, while Florida is looking to finish a perfect 7-0 in the conference with a win over Georgia this week and at Arkansas next Friday.

“I think our SEC meets have gone really well,” junior and four-time All-American Amelia Hundley said. “It’s really good, the pressure that it brings, because we try to step up and I think we overall do better under pressure.

“Really, for the most part, we’re just going to stay normal. We’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing and not thinking of it as beating another SEC team. We’re just doing the best we can for ourselves and improving from the meet before.”

Sophomore and two-time All-American Alyssa Baumann has been solid, scoring a collegiate-best 9.975 on the balance beam in UF’s narrow loss at top-ranked Oklahoma Feb. 1 and a pair of 9.95s on the floor exercise in that same meet as well as at last week’s road win at Alabama.

Baumann’s younger sister, Rachel, is a freshman competitor for the GymDogs.

“Things are going really well,” Baumann said. “I feel like each competition we’re really building on the last and we’re improving on areas that we need to. There’s still, of course, some areas — vault landings, handstands on bars — but nothing major. I think that going forward, we just are focusing on those little things in the gym and we’re really confident going into this meet.”

Trinity Thomas has been UF’s most prolific scorer, registering nine event wins while adding three all-around victories highlighted by a pair of personal-best 39.70s in the last two home meets. Thomas been honored in each of the league’s last six SEC weekly awards lists. This is her fourth SEC Freshman of the Week award and she has been named the SEC Gymnast of the Week twice.

Senior and 14-time All-American Alicia Boren is next with seven event titles and an all-around victory.

“It’s rivalry weekend, and it’s a great time,” Rowland noted. “It’s a great opportunity for this team to go out there and really just have a great time in front of Gator Nation.”

Getting to the Arena:

• Season parking holders can enter the O’Connell Center lot off Lemerand Drive OR SW 2nd Avenue.

• Public parking is available in the O’Connell Center parking garage on first-come basis. Those wishing to park in the garage must enter lot off SW 2nd Avenue.

• Public parking is also available in the north end of Percy Beard Track (enter off SW 2nd Avenue), tennis stadium lot or fraternity row.

• A complimentary parking bus transports fans from Commuter Lot Garage IX to the O’Connell Center. For more information, visit FloridaGators.com