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No. 3 Gators gymnastics team faces rival Georgia Bulldogs in first road meet

Graham Hall
Special to Gatorsports.com
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The No. 3-ranked Florida gymnastics program had to sweat out a dramatic victory Sunday over No. 11-ranked Alabama on national television in the SEC opener as Nya Reed and Trinity Thomas scored perfect 10s in the final rotation to seal the come-from-behind win. The roar from the sold-out home crowd reached its peak in the closing moments, and both Reed and Thomas acknowledged in the aftermath that the environment helped fuel their impressive performances.

Trinity Thomas, Nya Reed look to continue strong performances

But Florida won’t have anywhere close to a similar level of support when it takes on Georgia in Athens at 6 p.m. in the team’s road opener, though the Gators are ultimately far more concerned with improving in the gym than the team is with who’s in attendance.

“Each person has been able to identify a few things that they can do to get better, what they need to do individually and as a team,” head coach Jenny Rowland said.

Florida Gators gymnast Trinity Thomas performs her floor routine during a meet against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Jan. 16 at Exactech Arena in Gainesville. Thomas scored a perfect 10 to help the Gators beat the Crimson Tide 197.000 to 196.925.

And, considering the opposition, Rowland isn’t exactly anxious about the team suffering an emotional letdown in the team’s first competition outside of Gainesville this season. 

The Bulldogs, who have competed just once this season as a result of COVID protocols, may be unranked, but they undoubtedly remain a rival. 

“Really, going to Georgia makes for an easy mentality turnaround, because this team is always hyped to go and compete against Georgia,” Rowland said. “So thankfully I haven’t had to manifest a lot of energy and emotion (in practice).” 

That’s a credit to not only the program’s culture but the team’s senior leadership, which was on full display against the Crimson Tide.

Megan Skaggs, Alyssa Baumann show leadership

In addition to the meet-clinching performances by Reed and Thomas, the Gators received vital contributions from fifth-year seniors Megan Skaggs, who claimed the second all-around title of her collegiate career with a 39.525, and Alyssa Baumann, whose scores in the final two rotations helped UF seal the comeback.

“They really have taken their leadership roles to a new level,” Rowland said. “They have, in essence, stepped down in their leadership roles vocally and allowed our true seniors to manifest and lead the team a little bit more, yet their actions are speaking so loudly to this team, and we’re truly grateful for that.”

The Florida-Georgia rivalry may not be going anywhere, but one between siblings will come to an end as the trip to UGA will mark the final collegiate battle between two of the three Baumann sisters. 

Baumann sisters prepare for final collegiate battle

Bulldogs senior Rachel Baumann scored a 9.750 in the beam exercise in Georgia’s season-opening 194.500-197.750 loss on the road Jan. 6 against Michigan, the reigning national champions, and there’s little doubt the Baummans will be back in the rotation when UGA returns to the floor for Friday night’s meet.

Though the Gators can’t let the competition between siblings hinder their focus, meaning Rowland is intrigued to see how the team channels its emotions when the lights come on.

“It’s something that I know both of these young women are really passionate about. They’re so close as sisters, but yet so competitive with their teams,” Rowland said. “Just relying on what they know and what they do best rather than relying on their emotions and playing off their emotions in the heat of the moment. I think that’s going to be a great test.”

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