Florida Gators gymnastics team prepares for emotional senior night vs. Oklahoma Sooners

Graham Hall
Gator Sports

Senior night for the Florida gymnastics program will be a super-sized affair. 

In a battle between top-five programs, the Gators will honor the team’s six seniors — Leah Clapper, Sydney Johnson-Scharpf, Nya Reed, Savannah Schoenherr, Halley Taylor and Trinity Thomas — as well as the two “super seniors,” Alyssa Baumman and Megan Skaggs, when No. 3-ranked UF hosts No. 2-ranked Oklahoma at 6:45 p.m. in the Exactech Arena. 

“Eight athletes that this team really gets to focus a little bit more on this week, and remember why we started and why we do what we do. These young women have been a joy to work with. I’ve been able to see them grow into young women and evolve,” UF head coach Jenny Rowland said. “I'm really truly thankful to be a small part of their life throughout their journey.”

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In Florida’s previous meet, the Gators rallied at No. 10 Kentucky to clinch a share of the SEC’s regular season conference title for the fourth consecutive season. Trinity Thomas scored her fourth perfect 10.0 of the season en route to securing the all-around title against the Wildcats with a staggering 39.70.

Thomas also scored a 9.975 on the beam exercise, while freshman Leanne Wong continued her impressive inaugural season of collegiate gymnastics in the match-up with the Wildcats, scoring a 9.90 on vault for the second meet in a row. 

Florida's Trinity Thomas will be among eight Gator gymnasts taking the floor for the final time Friday night at Exactech Arena. The No. 3 Gators host the No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners at 6:30 p.m.

The Gators, now 9-0 on the season, have preached the importance of competing with themselves rather than against the opposition. The focus is on improving from week to week rather than simply winning under the Friday night lights. 

“Our team has talked a lot about keeping it consistent, no matter who we’re competing against,” Schoenherr said, “and going into each meet, our motivations don’t change.”

That doesn’t mean Friday's meet, which is likely to be a sold-out affair after UF sold $2 tickets on Feb. 2, isn't expected to be a bit more of an emotional one. 

Schoenherr, who scored a 9.90 on vault and a 9.85 on uneven bars against Kentucky, said her family — from her parents, brother, aunts and uncles, and her grandparents — will make the trip to Gainesville to see her compete at home for the final time.

Considering what the program has meant to her, it's a meet they wouldn't miss.

“Being a part of this team has been the experience of a lifetime,” Schoenherr said. “The team, the staff, my teammates that I’ve had over the past four years — it’s just been incredible, and I’ve made so many memories that I’ll never forget.” 

She has an opportunity to create more memories Friday against a Sooners group that has scored three of the top-10 team totals in the nation this season. Much like the Gators, the Sooners have considerable depth throughout the roster; four different Oklahoma gymnasts have scored a 10.0 this season. 

It’s a challenge Rowland believes the unbeaten Gators are ready for.

“Excited to have them here,” she said, “and the Gators are ready to protect our ground.”