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3 takeaways from Florida Gators gymnastics victory over SEC rival LSU

Graham Hall
Gator Sports
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The No. 4-ranked Florida gymnastics team, competing in front of a sold-out crowd at the Exactech Arena, emerged victorious over No. 5 LSU, defeating the Tigers by a score of 198.150–197.825 Friday night. 

Florida’s 198.150 is the fourth-highest score in the nation.

The Gators and Tigers, the SEC’s top-ranked teams, were tied at 148.350 heading into the fourth and final rotation. 

Led by Nya Reed’s second perfect 10.0 of the season, UF tallied an eye-popping 49.800 on floor to secure the victory and improve to 8-0 on the season. 

“I knew the score was tied going into the final rotation,” said Trinity Thomas, “and I wasn’t worried.”

Florida Gators gymnast Leanne Wong does a Gator Chomp in her performance on the floor during an SEC gymnastics meet against LSU held at Exactech Arena, in Gainesville, Feb. 11, 2022. The Florida Gators beat the LSU Tigers to stay undefeated in the SEC.

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Here are three takeaways from Friday’s meet.

Leanne Wong takes all-around title

Florida freshman Leanne Wong’s impressive inaugural season of collegiate gymnastics continued Friday night. 

Wong took home the second all-around title of her collegiate career with a 39.650. She scored a career-high 9.90 on vault in Florida’s first rotation and a career-high-tying 9.925 in the beam exercise. 

Thomas won her fourth vault title with a near-perfect 9.975. She shared the bars victory with fellow senior Savannah Schoenherr and LSU's Haleigh Bryant at 9.95. 

Florida Gators gymnastics fans yells and cheer for the team as they begin the floor exercise during the meet against LSU held at Exactech Arena, in Gainesville, Feb. 11, 2022. The Florida Gators beat the LSU Tigers to stay undefeated in the SEC.

Gators celebrate alumna night

As a celebration of the 50-year history of UF women’s athletics, Friday’s meet marked a return for multiple gymnasts who competed for UF. The 1972-73 season saw the University of Florida debut five varsity women’s teams: gymnastics, golf, swimming, tennis, and track & field. The Gators wore 50th Anniversary shirts commemorating the milestone during warm-ups Friday. 

“It really means a lot. This is my seventh year here, and there are so many amazing women who have come before myself and this team, coaches and athletes, and we would not be where we are today without those young women in front of us,” head coach Jenny Rowland said, “So I’m really grateful for what they’ve done to elevate this program and to set the standards high, and I’m just really proud of my team to continue the excellence.”

Sloane Blakely bounces back

Freshman gymnast Sloane Blakely has had an impressive start to her collegiate career. The Frisco, Texas, native claimed the all-around title in her first UF meet, the season-opening quad meet on Jan. 7, and she’s been a consistent presence in the Florida lineup in the month since. 

But Friday night was more of a struggle for Blakely. 

In Florida’s first rotation, Blakely scored a 9.675 on vault, the lowest mark for either team in the event. She fell on uneven bars, resulting in a mark of 8.550 that Florida had to drop. 

On the beam, Florida’s third rotation, Blakely recovered mid-routine to score a 9.600 in the event. 

“She knows what’s she doing, and we know we can trust her. And we also talk a lot about how you’re going to make mistakes,” Rowland said of Blakely. “That’s OK, and that’s what your team’s there for. We have a team, everybody’s going to have each other’s back, and that’s what this team did today.”

Florida Gators gymnast Sloane Blakely performs on the beam during an SEC gymnastics meet against LSU held at Exactech Arena, in Gainesville, Feb. 11, 2022. The Florida Gators beat the LSU Tigers to stay undefeated in the SEC.

Blakely would end her night on a high note. 

With Florida’s victory already secured, Blakely competed sans pressure in the floor routine in the final spot, scoring a 9.950 in the rotation. 

“Sloane is a competitor, like, one of the best competitors I’ve ever met, and I know that she is not happy with the mistakes that she made today,” Thomas said, “but I am so proud of her, because even the little mistakes that she made, she kept moving forward and kept fighting, and that’s all you can ask for. And she did an awesome floor routine. We couldn’t be more proud of her.”

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