Gators rally for a spot at NCAA Gymnastics Championship

Special to Gatorsports.com
Florida's Leah Clapper won the beam with a 9.95 at the NCAA Regional. [File]

ATHENS, Ga. — The top-ranked Florida gymnastics team showed its champion mettle Saturday night in rallying to win the NCAA Regional final and advance to the national championship.

The Gators, the SEC regular-season champions, moved from last to first to claim the program's 37th NCAA Championships berth at Fort Worth, Texas, April 16-17. It's their 19th regional win.

"[It was] so rewarding to see this team reap the benefits of all that they've had to do to overcome this year," UF coach Jenny Rowland said. "[We felt] a sense of gratitude, of gratefulness, of being able to do something that we love.

"It was a fight. It was a battle. It was awesome. It was a roller coaster of emotions. And that's what I love about gymnastics and that's what I love about being a Gator. [It was] really great to see these Gators be able to celebrate this successful moment."

Florida (197.70) and Minnesota (197.425) advance to the Championship, while Denver (197.275) and North Carolina State (196.15) were eliminated.

Florida opened the meet with a 49.225 on vault, led by Savannah Schoenherr's runner-up mark of 9.925 and Megan Skaggs' 9.90. The other three teams all opened the meet with event totals of 49.325 - Minnesota (bars), Denver (beam) and North Carolina State (floor) - to share the early lead.

"It was a hard [meet]. It was a great [meet] and you know what, every win is sweet. Something that we really tried to focus on this meet ... was focusing on what we can control," Rowland said.

Bars drew stronger scores for the Gators. Freshman Gabrielle Gallentine anchored the lineup again with a 9.95 — equaling her collegiate best for the second consecutive night to take second overall. Trinity Thomas and Skaggs both posted 9.90s as the team posted a 49.475 to pull up to third at the midway point.

The Gators again used three 9.9 or better scores on beam to take a narrow 0.075 lead heading into the deciding rotation. Leah Clapper shared the beam win at 9.95 with Minnesota's Lexy Ramler and Denver's Alexis Vasquez. Freshman Ellie Lazzari and senior Alyssa Baumann both posted 9.9s.

Florida's 49.55 on floor led all teams. Junior Nya Reed shrugged off the problems of getting her steps down on vault to tie for second overall in the floor competition at 9.95. The opening three Gators — Clapper (9.90), Skaggs and Lazzari (9.925) — all set or equaled their collegiate floor bests.

Skaggs took third in the all-around (39.60) and Lazzari took fourth by matching her top collegiate total (39.525).

"This team deserved it, I think more than any other team I've seen," Baumann said. "They are such fighters, and just seeing all the hard work, especially through a difficult and challenging time with COVID and everything, it just means so much more. Every little obstacle that we've overcome has made this moment so much more special, and it's going to make Nationals that much more rewarding." 

Two Gators were injured in floor warm-up Saturday — juniors Sydney Johnson-Scharpf and Halley Taylor. Payton Richards replaced Johnson-Scharpf in the floor lineup. Taylor was not in the floor lineup but is one of UF's top backups on the event. Johnson-Scharpf announced on social media Sunday she had suffered an Achilles injury and will have surgery this week.

Event Winners

Vault: Mya Hooten, Minnesota 9.95

Bars: Lynnzee Brown, Denver 10.0

Beam: Leah Clapper, Florida 9.95, Alexis Vasquez, Denver 9.95, Lexy Ramler, Minnesota 9.95

Floor: Lynnzee Brown, Denver 10.00

AA: Lynnzee Brown, Denver 39.75

Regional finishers

Athens 

Florida 197.700, Minnesota 197.425, Denver 197.275, NC State 196.150| Results 

Morgantown

Michigan 198.100, Cal. Berkley 197.750, UCLA 197.275, Ohio State 195.625 | Results

Tuscaloosa 

Oklahoma 198.175, Alabama 197.575, Arkansas 196.700, Missouri 196.550 | Results 

Salt Lake City Regional 

Utah 197.925, LSU 197.730, Arizona State 197.600, Kentucky 197.600 

*Top two teams advance to NCAA Championship semifinal April 16.