Top-ranked Florida Gators rally to defeat No. 11 Alabama in SEC gymnastics match

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun
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The top-ranked Florida Gators celebrate their victory over Alabama Sunday at the O'Connell Center.

GAINESVILLE — Led by consecutive 10.0 scores from seniors Trinity Thomas and Nya Reed, the No. 1-ranked Florida gymnastics team pulled off a dramatic comeback Sunday over No. 11-ranked Alabama, 197.000 – 196.925. 

With her first perfect score of the afternoon, Thomas became the 12th woman in NCAA Gymnastics history to record the coveted Gym Slam – a 10.0 on all four events during her collegiate career.

“I knew I needed a 10 on vault to finish the Gym Slam. I was like ‘I’m not leaving until I get it’, so it was so special, that moment,” Thomas said. “I was so happy to see a 10 come up.”

Trailing Alabama in the fourth and final rotation, the Gators needed to make up ground against the Crimson Tide or risk suffering defeat in front of a sold-out home crowd – not to mention the countless eyes watching at home during the first-ever regular season Division I gymnastics meet broadcast nationally. 

Fortunately for Florida (4-0, 1-0 SEC), Thomas and Reed turned in immaculate finishes when the Gators needed it most. 

Florida senior Trinity Thomas scores a perfect 10 on the vault to became the 12th woman in NCAA Gymnastics history to record the coveted Gym Slam – a 10.0 on all four events during her collegiate career.

Thomas sensed the moment Reed had awaited patiently for had finally arrived.

“I saw Nya’s 10 go up, and I was like, ‘This is it’,” Thomas said. “We’ve talked about going back-to-back 10s before forever, and today, literally right before we went, we said ‘let’s do it’, and her 10 came up and I gasped, and I was like, this is the moment.”

Florida started the afternoon with a less-than-stellar 49.350 on vault in the first rotation despite Thomas’ 10, as Savannah Schoenherr didn’t stick her landing, resulting in a score of 9.625.

Schoenherr rebounded with a 9.825 in the second rotation, the uneven bars, and the Gators would tally a 48.975 in the rotation, putting UF in a 98.475–98.325 hole midway through the meet.

Sophomore Ellie Lazzari fell on bars during the third rotation, putting the Gators in danger of falling into an insurmountable deficit and suffering their first loss of the regular season. But freshman Leanne Wong scored a 9.900 in the sixth and final pass of the event, allowing UF to drop Lazzari’s score and set up a final-rotation thriller. 

After 9.9s from Megan Skaggs and Wong came Reed’s routine, and she made sure to make the most of it. 

Less than 24 hours prior to the meet, Reed, the senior from Landover, Maryland, had expressed her desire to reach the exclusive 10.0 club at Florida. In the aftermath, it seemed rather prophetic. 

“It just means the world to me,” Reed said. “I want to be like (Thomas), I want to get that 10, I want to be like those girls that are on the wall. And now I get to be a part of it, so this moment is extremely special for me.”

Seeing Reed’s success only fueled Thomas. The two embraced before Thomas took the floor, the noise from the audience competing against Florida’s blaring sound system. 

“Every time I see any of my teammates, but especially the one before me, do great,” said Thomas, “It makes me think I have to finish this off.”

Consecutive perfect scores, and the comeback had been completed. It wasn’t easy, but it was a victory nonetheless, acknowledged head coach Jenny Rowland. 

“The toughest 197 we’ve ever had to sweat out,” she said. “This team showed great resilience today.”

The Gators return to competition Friday when UF travels to Athens, Georgia, to take on the Bulldogs at 6 p.m. 

UP NEXT

Who: No. 2 Florida at No. 21 Georgia

When: 6 p.m. Friday

TV: SEC Network

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