Trinity Thomas deserves to win gymnastics title with her Florida teammates | David Whitley
If you want to convince someone that karma is real, avoid the topic of Trinity Thomas.
Karma dictates that good things happen to good people, and vice versa. So how do we explain what happens about this time every year?
The NCAA Gymnastics Championships roll around, and karma treats Thomas like a complete stranger.
Last year, she sprained both ankles midway through the season. Thomas rested and rehabbed and showed up at the NCAA meet in Fort Worth with her ankles taped and her breath held.
'Nothing compares to college gymnastics':Championship atmosphere awaits Gators at NCAAs
TV and live stream:How to watch the Florida Gators in the NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships
Trinity Thomas:Florida gymnast talks about regional performance
Trouble at 2021 NCAA Championships
The first event was the beam. The first Florida gymnast fell, leaving the next five teammates no room for error.
When Thomas’s turn came, things started well enough. Then, here’s what viewers back home heard from the TV analysts.
“Oh my goodness!”
Thomas lost her balance, spun around, fell backward and latched onto the beam like a castaway clinging to a lifeboat. She climbed back up and finished her routine, but the damage was done. Florida’s hopes for a team title were shot, along with Thomas’ quest for an individual title.
Sure, that stuff happens. But for karma believers, Thomas is a head-scratcher.
Check her college resume. Twenty-two time All-American. SEC Gymnast of the Year in 2020 and 2022. Eighteen 10.0 scores. Thomas is only the 12th person to complete a Gym Slam — scoring perfect 10.0s in every event.
She’s not the type to just fall off a beam.
She also will graduate this spring with a degree in Applied Physiology and Kinesiology. She made the SEC Academic Honor Roll all four years.
Model athlete, model student. Then you can throw in a great personality. It comes to life during her favorite event.
Florida gymnastics:Records and achievements keep coming for Gators senior Trinity Thomas
If UF had a Museum of Sports Memories, Thomas’s vivacious floor routines would hang in the lobby next to Steve Spurrier’s field goal against Auburn. She even occasionally dyed her hair blue for effect, something the future Head Ball Coach never did.
Thomas has probably signed a million autographs, smiled for 1.5 million cellphone pictures, and given two million hugs in her time on campus.
Title 'would be the biggest blessing ever'
The NCAA Championships begin again Thursday in Fort Worth. I don’t want to say Thomas deserves an NCAA individual title, but Thomas deserves an individual title.
“I think everything happens for a reason,” she said. “And honestly, if, God willing, we can go out there and do what we’ve been working so hard for, that would be the biggest blessing ever.”
Thomas talks first in team terms, and the Gators’ struggles reflect her own. After winning three NCAA titles in a row from 2013-15, the event has become a Bermuda Triangle for UF.
The most mysterious disappearance came in 2019, when UF was bounced in a regional qualifier for only the second time in 37 years. Thomas and the Gators were unbeaten and steaming along when COVID-19 pulled the plug in 2020.
They were ranked No. 1 last season and favored to win, then Thomas landed funny during a warmup dismount at Alabama. Six weeks of intense rehabilitation later, she was on the beam in Fort Worth.
Then she wasn’t.
“I was upset because I knew what I was capable of,” Thomas said. “But at the same time, I was like, ‘Hey, I have another opportunity next year.’”
UF coach Jenny Rowland
The Gators have taken a different approach this year. Blessed with a lot of depth, coach Jenny Rowland had gymnasts sit out more meets, pacing the grind in hopes of peaking late.
It seems to be working. Florida’s score of 198.775 in the NCAA Regional two weeks ago was the third-highest mark in collegiate history. Thomas and freshman Leanne Wong had the two highest individual scores in the nation this season.
Escaping the Bermuda Triangle won’t be easy. The top teams like Florida, Oklahoma and Michigan are separated by tenths of points.
Entire seasons crash down with one slip that shakes your faith in good things happening to good people. After three years, does Thomas still believe that karma exists?
“I do,” she said.
If she's right, this weekend in Fort Worth would be a fine time to show it.
— David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow him on Twitter: @DavidEWhitley.