No. 1 Gator gymnasts win at No. 6 Alabama

Mary Howard
Special to Gatorsports.com

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The top-ranked Florida Gator gymnastics team wasn’t in the mood to share.

Even with Florida junior standout Trinity Thomas sidelined due to an injury in warm-ups, the Gators put together a winning performance Friday at No. 6 Alabama. Florida took the win 197.425-197.225 in front of a physically distanced Coleman Coliseum crowd of 2,055.

“It wasn't the strongest or sharpest start for the Gators, but really that last bar routine, the excitement just kind of did a reset for the Gators, and vault was a complete reset,” UF coach Jenny Rowland said.

Florida (8-0, 7-0 SEC) claimed sole possession of the Southeastern Conference regular-season title. Heading into tonight’s SEC finale, Alabama (6-2, 5-2) needed a win to share the title with Florida.

Coleman Coliseum is not a site of many Gator victories. Florida is now 3-16 in dual meet action at Alabama, with those wins coming in 1979, 2019 and now 2021.

7-0 SEC SEASON

The win also gives Florida its second consecutive undefeated SEC regular-season at 7-0. The 2020 Gator team was the program’s first to post a 7-0 league record.

“I think a goal of all of ours is to just be the best team that we can be," senior Megan Skaggs said. "And looking at how we've done this year we know that an undefeated season is totally within reach for us, so we rallied before that last event. Of course, we were ready to win it and we weren't going to let anything stop us from winning.” 

The league began awarding a SEC regular-season trophy in 2017. This is Florida’s third consecutive SEC regular-season title: 2019 (6-1), 2020 (7-0) and 2021 (7-0).

Beginning in 1992, all league teams met during regular season action. Florida’s was unbeaten in the 2007 season with a 5-0-1 record. That tie? It came when No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Georgia tied at 197.25 on Jan. 28, 2007 in Stegeman Coliseum.

FRIDAY'S ACTION

Florida struggled to find stuck landings for its uneven bars routines Friday. Junior Savannah Schoenherr led Florida on bars to share second with UA’s Shanie Adams at 9.925. Florida trailed by 0.225 after the opening rotation.

The Gator Stick Chain found its way around several necks on the next rotation. Three Gators posted runner-up vault marks of 9.90 — Ellie Lazzari, Megan Skaggs and Nya Reed. That mark equals Lazzari’s collegiate best for the second consecutive meet. At the midway point, Florida narrowed the Tide lead to 0.15.

Florida looked strong on floor exercise, posting a 49.525 for a narrow 0.05 lead heading into the final rotation. Three Gators posted marks of 9.9 or better — Lazzari (9.90), Reed (9.95) and Alyssa Baumann (9.975). Two of those marks — Lazzari and Baumann — equaled their collegiate bests and Baumann shared the meet title with UA’s Lexi Graber.

With the meet title still undecided, the Gators sealed the win with a six-for-six balance beam set. Skaggs shared the beam win with Alabama’s Luisa Blanco at 9.925. Lazzari turned in her third 9.9 of the evening on beam.

“We had some stellar performances tonight on vault," Rowland said. "Three stuck landings on vault, three 9.9’s in a row from Ellie [Lazzari], [Megan] Skaggs and Nya [Reed]. [On] floor, Alyssa Baumann had a collegiate best 9.975, really excited for her. And first time that Savannah Schoenherr has ever competed beam for the Gators, so what a way to debut beam, away, with a 9.875.

"There's been so much adversity that this team has faced throughout the season, and they should be able to carry and take away a lot from this year and feel good going into postseason.” 

Blanco won the all-around (39.70), vault (9.925), uneven bars (9.95) and shared beam (9.925). Skaggs was just off her collegiate-best, taking second at 39.575. A collegiate-best 39.525 put Lazzari in third.

Thomas injured her ankles during pre-meet uneven bars warm-up. She was held out of competition as a precautionary measure as the team looks ahead to the SEC Championships meet in a couple of weeks.

“I'm so proud of the team tonight," Thomas said. "I knew they could do it no matter what. I have so much trust and faith in them, and I knew that they had my back. I was so proud to see them go one event at a time and just hit and hit, and they came out on top. I'm so proud of them and I wouldn't expect any less; they're amazing.”