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No. 1 Florida takes win at No. 2 LSU, 198.15-198.05

Mary Howard
Special to The Sun
No. 1 Florida's Trinity Thomas records her first Perfect 10 in 2021 and the second in her career on the floor in the win at No. 2 LSU on Friday.

BATON ROUGE, La. — The nation’s top total of the season gave the No. 1 Florida gymnastics team a 198.15-198.05 win at No. 2 LSU on Friday.

“What an awesome, amazing, wonderful night," Florida coach Jenny  Rowland said. "Really, number one, number two. These two teams bring out the best in each other. They always have and they always will. Props to LSU for an incredible meet tonight — the crowd was here and the energy was here. Our team was present."

It was exactly what was expected for this meeting between the nation’s top two teams. Florida (5-0, 4-0 SEC) trailed by two-tenths after the opening rotation and still trailed by two-tenths as the teams headed to the events that they held the nation’s top average (Florida: beam; LSU: floor).

The nation’s top balance beam total of 2021 (49.65) pushed Florida to a final 198.15. LSU’s final floor competitor had trouble on her closing tumbling pass and Florida edged the Tigers (4-1, 3-1) by a tenth for the team win.

Tight finishes are traditional between these teams, as less than two-tenths separated five of the last seven UF-LSU meetings.

It was Jan. 18, 2019 when Florida, which leads the series 73-41, overcame a 0.05 deficit at No. 5 LSU for a 0.075 win after a third-rotation deficit.

“We came in knowing that those quarter of a tenths were going to be the difference," Rowland said. "We’ve been working so hard in the gym for those little details — fighting for landings, fighting for handstands and fighting to stay present. Tonight there was so much fight all the way through to the very last dismount. This team showed so much passion, so much heart and so much joy on the floor tonight. Just super proud to be a Florida Gator.” 

There were strong Gator performances throughout the evening, but junior Trinity Thomas was spectacular Friday. Her 39.90 all-around performance — which included a 10.0 on floor — set the Florida school record. It is also No. 5 all-time in NCAA history. She won at least a share of every event title Friday.

Florida trailed the Tigers by two-tenths after opening the meet with a 49.40 on uneven bars. Thomas won the uneven bars title with her first of two near-perfect 9.975s. Junior Savannah Schoenherr equaled her season bars best 9.925.

On vault, the Gators matched their season high of 49.55 on vault. Thomas equaled her collegiate best to take the event title with a 9.975. Florida also got marks of 9.925 from Reed and 9.9 by Schoenherr.

It was season-high 49.55 for the Gators on floor exercise, led by Thomas’ 10.0. Reed shared second with LSU’s Alyona Shchennikova and Sierra Ballard at 9.925. Senior Alyssa Baumann posted a 9.90 in her first return to the floor lineup since UF’s second meet of 2021.

Florida showed no nerves despite an early miss in the beam lineup. All five routines counting toward its season-best 49.65 total were 9.90 or better. Freshman Ellie Lazzari equaled her collegiate best of 9.95 to share the beam title with Thomas. Sophomore Payton Richards and Baumann shared third with three Tigers at 9.925. Junior Leah Clapper anchored the Gators’ beam set with a 9.90 to put UF in position for the team win.

Richards set her all-around best of 39.525 to take second. Lazzari, making her collegiate all-around debut, took third at 39.30.

Up next for the Gators is a two-meet homestand that begins with a Gainesville community favorite — the 14th Gators Link to Pink versus Kentucky on Feb. 19,