Title fight: Florida Gators gymnastics win SEC regular season outright with tie at Auburn

Special to Gator Sports
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For the second consecutive year, the Florida gymnastics team finished regular-season league action with a trip to the state of Alabama to decide if the Gators would retain sole possession of the Southeastern Conference title or share the crown with its opponent.

In one of the nation’s top gymnastics duals of the weekend, No. 3 Florida tied No. 6 Auburn at 198.575 — a school record for both programs and the nation’s high team total for 2022.

With the tie, Florida won the 2022 SEC regular-season title with its 0.929 winning percentage. Auburn needed a win to share the title. This is Florida's fourth consecutive SEC regular-season trophy, and the tie gave UF its third consecutive undefeated SEC regular-season title at 6-0-1. (Gators were 7-0 in 2020 and 2021.)

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'Electrifying' environment at Auburn'

It was the first official event at the Neville Arena, which was renamed from Auburn Arena earlier Friday afternoon. And the sold-out crowd saw the fourth highest team score in collegiate history and four perfect 10.0s by four different gymnasts.

"We couldn't have written the script for a night like this," said Gators coach Jenny Rowland. "It was an exciting environment, very electrifying. Maybe not for the Gators but still, this crowd was unbelievable."

Florida's Sloane Blakely performs a perfect score floor routine as Auburn Tigers gymnastics takes on Florida Gators at Neville Arena in Auburn, Ala., on Friday, March 4, 2022. Auburn Tigers and Florida Gators ended in a tie at 198.575.

On Friday night, the Gators started on uneven bars and UF's Leanne Wong (2021 World Championships all-around silver) and Auburn’s Sunisa Lee (2020 Olympic all-around gold) shared the bars title at 9.95.

The Gators set a program record on vault as no score lower than 9.9 was used toward the total of 49.725. Senior Trinity Thomas earned her second career vault 10.0 to win the event title.

The Gators got another 10.0 on their next event. Freshman Sloane Blakely anchored the floor lineup with her first collegiate 10.0. She shared the evening’s event title with Auburn’s Derrian Gobourne. Senior Nya Reed shared third with AU’s Sophia Groth and Lee as all posted near perfect 9.975s.

Balance beam was UF’s closing event and the Gators were led by Thomas’ 9.975. That mark took second in the beam standings to Lee’s 10.0. Wong shared third at 9.95 with AU’s Gabby McLaughlin and Groth.

Lee won the all-around at 39.80. UF senior Megan Skaggs was runner-up with her collegiate high of 39.725.

"The Gators just kept owning their gymnastics. They kept stepping up. They kept showing up and kept fighting and I couldn't ask for anything more," Rowland said. 

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