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Final rotation propels top-ranked Florida over No. 8 Arkansas, 197.425-197.25

Special to Gatorsports.com
Florida's Megan Skaggs competes Friday against Arkansas.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Florida's No. 1 gymnastics team used the nation's third-highest total of 2021 to take a 197.425–197.25 win Friday at No. 8 Arkansas.

The Florida (3-0, 2-0 SEC) at Arkansas (0-3, 0-2) meet was one of two top-10 duals across the nation this weekend in front of physically distanced sellout Barnhill Arena of 1,241. 

No. 3 Michigan took a 195.85-195.00 win over No. 4 Minnesota to start Friday's competition.

This is the nation's only meet of 2021 that both finished with team totals of 197 or better. Friday's total stands as Arkansas' third highest in program history.

"I saw a lot of heart and I saw a lot of grit from this team. It was a battle from the first routine out to the last routine," Florida coach Jenny Rowland said. "Scoring was back and forth and back and forth. Really great level between all competitors.

"Just really proud of this team as they handled the pressure. Great to see them step up to the moment, take ownership and do what they've been doing in practice. We had little things here and there but this team came through."

Florida opened the meet with a season-best uneven bars set of 49.40. That score was boosted by four season-best marks Friday, including a near perfect 9.975 by Trinity Thomas. Other 2021 bests came from Payton Richards and Savannah Schoenherr (9.85) and Megan Skaggs (9.875).

"The expectations are as high as you want them to be but really our only expectations of them is to be who they are. That's what tonight was all about," Rowland said.

Schoenherr upped her collegiate best to 9.95 for her Yurchenko one and half vault to take the event win. The rest of the Gator lineup was consistent on vault, with other scores put toward team total ranging from 9.85 – 9.875.

Nya Reed once again led the Gators on floor with a mark of 9.925 to share the event title with Arkansas' Bailey Lovett.

Florida held a slight 0.125 lead heading into the final rotation and needed a solid beam set to seal the win.

The Gators used the season's No. 2 beam total of 49.425 (No. 1 total of 49.60 set by UF Jan. 8) to outscore the GymBacks meet-high event total of 49.375 on floor. A pair of seniors led UF on beam. Skaggs won the event with a collegiate-best 9.95 and Alyssa Baumann shared second with UA's Lovett at 9.925.

Skaggs won her first collegiate all-around title with a 39.50 and Thomas was second at 39.325. Richards (39.225) was just edged for third by Arkansas' Kennedy Hambrick (39.25)

"A win is a win and is always a great feeling but the Gators know we can do a lot better. That's a great thing. It's still early in the season. It's coming along in the gym so I know it's going to transfer out to the competition floor," Rowland said.

Gator Performance Notes

• Florida now has the nation's top (197.50) and No. 3 (197.425) team totals of 2021.

• Skaggs made her first all-around and beam lineup appearance since the 2019 NCAA Regionals. The all-around win was her first as a Gator and the beam title was her third.

• Schoenherr's 9.95 claimed her third vault win as a Gator and first since her freshman season. She equaled her previous vault high of 9.90 seven times.

• Thomas' 9.975 on bars was the high score on any event Friday. It gave her the 14 bars win of her Gator career.

• Reed shared her second consecutive floor title (9.925). It is her third floor win as a Gator.

SEC action continues starting at 6:45 p.m. Jan. 29 when No. 20 Missouri visits Gainesville.