3 takeaways from Florida gymnastics team victory; Gators go out in style on Senior Night

David Whitley
Gator Sports

Friday was Senior Night for the Florida gymnastics team, and those veterans could not have asked for a much better finish to their home careers. The No. 3 Gators beat No. 2 Oklahoma 198.10 to 197.75 at the O’Connell Center.

“It was such a memorable evening,” coach Jenny Rowland said. “Lots of high-fives. Lots of hugs. Lots of great routines.”

The greatest came near the very end, when senior Trinity Thomas scored a 10.0 on the floor to clinch the win before a record crowd of 9,865 fans. It was the fourth consecutive sellout at Exactech Arena, and the crowd saw the Gators post the sixth-highest score of the season for all Division 1 schools.

Oklahoma and Florida have won six of the last nine NCAA championships. The Gators improved to 10-0, including seven victories at home. They’ve already clinched a tie for the SEC regular-season title and win it outright if they beat Auburn next Friday night.

Here are three takeaways from the meet.

Last meet:Florida women's gymnastics earns share of SEC regular-season title with win of Kentucky

More:3 takeaways from Florida Gators gymnastics victory over SEC rival LSU

Gallery:Florida Gators gymnastics tops LSU at SEC meet in Gainesville

Florida responded to pressure

The Gators led 148.40 to 148.20 going into the last rotation. Oklahoma got hot on the beam, with three gymnasts posting scores of 9.925. Florida responded with a 9.95 by Nya Reed and the 10.0 from Thomas.

“This team is clutch and I think they’ve shown that throughout the entire season,” Rowland said.

University of Florida gymnast Trinity Thomas performs her final floor routine, in which she scored a perfect 10, during a meet against the Oklahoma at the Exactech Arena in Gainesville, Feb. 25, 2022.

It was the second straight 10.0 on the floor for Thomas, and the 13th perfect score of her career. She won or tied for first in all four events and finished with an all-around score of 39.85, which is the best mark in the nation this year.

Sloane Blakely and Megan Skaggs tied for second with all-around scores of 39.575. They both scored 9.90 on the floor.

“We talk about how you fight to the end, to the very last skill routine,” Skaggs said. “We knew we were in it, and we weren’t going to give up anything easily. We wanted to win tonight, and that’s what we did.”

Veterans know how to ad lib

Skaggs tied for seventh out of 10 competitors on the beam, but her 9.875 was one of the more impressive performances of the night.

She didn’t execute a leaping move early in the routine and knew she had to add something in order to get her score up. She mentally inventoried potential moves while performing and threw in an extra aerial move on the fly.

“You just have to keep going and get yourself back on track,” Skaggs said.

“That was a veteran move,” Rowland said. “It’s trusting the training. The more repetitions in training you do, the more confident, the more calm, the more precision you have in being able to control little minor breaks and not creating it into a bigger deal than it needs to be.”                 

University of Florida gymnast Megan Skaggs performs on the beam during a meet against the Oklahoma at the Exactech Arena in Gainesville, Feb. 25, 2022. The No.3 Florida Gators beat the No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners.

Seniors are smart, too

Florida had an especially large senior class thanks to COVID-19 giving athletes an extra year of eligibility. Skaggs and Alyssa Baumann were “super seniors,” who took advantage of the rule. Reed, Thomas, Leah Clapper, Sydney Johnson-Scharpf, Savannah Schoenherr and Halley Taylor are traditional seniors.

One thing they have in common besides gymnastics is good grades. Besides earning 39 All-American honors as a group, every senior earned Academic All-SEC honors every season of their UF careers.

Do good academics make for good athletics?

“When things are going well outside athletics, it takes the pressure off,” Skaggs said. “When you’re putting academics first day by day, trying to stay on top of that, it makes it a lot easier in the gym. You’re able to come in with a lot more capacity to train well. It’s very much connected.”