UF gymnastics team downs Georgia

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun
Florida gymnast Nya Reed performs on the floor Friday against Georgia at Exactech Arena. The Gators beat the Bulldogs 197.250 to 196.075.

In Florida’s first home meet of the 2021 season, the No.1-ranked Gators gymnastics team secured a 197.250–196.075 victory over No. 7 Georgia on Friday night in front of a socially distanced, sold-out crowd of 2,203 people at the Exactech Arena.

“Overwhelming just to see the support that showed up from Gator Nation for our team,” UF coach Jenny Rowland said. “A sight to see down on the competition floor. There’s a lot of people to thank to get the Gators where they are today.”

In improving to 2-0, the Gators avenged a loss to the ‘Dawgs in Georgia’s last trip to Exactech Arena, a 197.45–197.375 win by UGA in 2019. 

Beginning on vault, Florida led 49.250-49.050 after one rotation, led by junior standout Trinity Thomas’ 9.900 — although it was a slight drop-off from UF’s score of 49.550 in the rotation Jan. 8 at Auburn. 

Thomas followed it up by leading all competitors with a 9.950 on uneven bars, however, to help give the Gators a 98.475–98.225 advantage over the 'Dawgs through two rotations. 

Florida gymnast Trinity Thomas performs on the floor Friday against Georgia at Exactech Arena.

Thomas’ bars routine may have appeared deserving of a 10 on first glance, but video replay showed her foot slightly slipped upon landing. 

Though it wouldn’t ultimately lead to a loss for the Gators, it wouldn’t be the last slip-up of the night for Thomas. 

With UF’s lead continuing to grow entering the third rotation, Thomas would fall off the balance beam before quickly getting back up and finishing her routine, resulting in a score of 9.250. 

Fortunately for the Gators, their depth would help maintain the lead through the rotation, as junior Leah Clapper, who made her collegiate debut in the uneven bars lineup in last weekend’s season-opener against the Tigers, turned in another strong showing in leading UF with a 9.925 on beam following Thomas’ uncharacteristic misstep. 

“Since I got to Florida my freshman year, I’ve been training all four events,” Clapper said. “At every meet that I’ve ever been to as a Gator, I’ve warmed up on bars, beam and floor, so just being able to compete in all three of those events is just incredible.”

Florida gymnast Leah Clapper performs on the bars Friday against Georgia.

UF junior Nya Reed’s 9.975 on floor exercise led all competitors and helped the Gators secure the win despite an atypical performance in the final two rotations by their star in Thomas. 

“Trinity’s not worried about her having an off-day or anything like that,” Reed said of her fellow Gator. “I think Trinity’s more happy that she has her teammates to be able to pick her up no matter what. We always talk about that: your teammates are always here for you.”

Georgia sophomore Haley de Jong secured the all-around title with a score of 39.175. 

After the meet, the Gators honored the seniors in the class of 2020 who had their season abruptly cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic just a day prior to UF’s final home game on the schedule. 

“This season is for them, in honor for them,” Rowland said of last year’s seniors. “Just really thankful those six athletes were Gators. They left a great legacy here.”

The Gators’ season continues Friday in Fayetteville, Arkansas, when Florida takes on the Razorbacks at 8 p.m.

UF is back in action at home Jan. 29 against Missouri. 

“A very emotional night, for many reasons, for all of us,” Rowland said. “It wasn’t anything too sharp, there wasn’t anything crazy, just some uncharacteristic things here and there. Left a little bit more out there tonight, but I think the team handled those mishaps really well.”

Florida gymnast Alyssa Baumann performs on the floor Friday against Georgia at Exactech Arena.