Big question for Florida gymnastics going forward: Will Trinity Thomas return for 2023?

Noah Ram
Special to Gator Sports

Payton Richards’ score flashed throughout Dickies Arena. On one side, Oklahoma celebrated. On the other, the Florida gymnastics team wondered how it landed short again. 

The Gators lost by a mere 0.1125 margin to the Sooners in the NCAA championship April 16 in Fort Worth, Texas. Since Florida last won a national title in 2015, OU has won four championships in that span. 

While coach Jenny Rowland has not won an NCAA team title in her seven seasons at the helm in Gainesville, she has proven the ability to construct a title-contending team year-after-year. Next year should be no different. 

Individual title:Trinity Thomas leads the Florida Gators to victory and into NCAA gymnastics championship

Conference leader:Florida Gators senior Trinity Thomas wins 2022 SEC gymnast of the year award

Road to finals:Gators going to the gymnastics finals! UF, Trinity Thomas dominate at NCAA regionals

Who is coming in for Gators in 2023? 

Leanne Wong, left, shows off her silver medal after taking second in the women's all-around finals in the FIG Gymnastics World Championships in Kitakyushu, Japan in 2021. At right is Kayla DiCello, who captured the bronze. DiCello and Wong will be teammates at UF next season.

However, the Orange and Blue first must replace its fifth-year seniors — Alyssa Baumann and Megan Skaggs

Skaggs, a native of Marietta, Georgia, was a three-time All-SEC and a 2019 SEC balance beam champion. Baumann, a Dallas native, was a nine-time All-American, four-time All-SEC and three-time SEC balance beam champion. 

Lori Brubach and Kayla DiCello expect to fill those spots.  

DiCello comes to Gainesville with impressive credentials. The Maryland native and 2021 World Championships all-around bronze medalist signed with UF last November.  

She becomes the fifth U.S. gymnast to sign with a collegiate program after claiming an all-around medal. Four of the five attended Florida — DiCello, Bridget Sloan and current Gators Leanne Wong and Morgan Hurd. Like Wong, DiCello served as an alternate on last summer’s U.S. Olympic gymnastics squad. 

Brubach, an Altamonte Springs native, committed to UF in February. She trained for the last six years with RAD Gymnastics and won vault in all three of the level 10 events in which she competed in 2022. 

Will Trinity Thomas return for another year? 

The largest question hanging over the 2023 squad, though, is the status of Trinity Thomas.

In a season loaded with talent in collegiate gymnastics, the senior staked her claim as the best in the game. She raked up an astounding 12 perfect marks in 2022, second all-time. Her all-around score in the NCAA team final (39.8625) is also second best, and her 10 on floor in the final was the first in the event since 2005. 

One more 10!Watch Trinity Thomas' perfect floor exercise at NCAA Gymnastics Championships

Last week, she was chosen as a finalist for the Honda Award, one of the most prestigious awards in collegiate gymnastics along with Oregon State’s Jade Carey, Auburn’s Suni Lee and Minnesota’s Lexi Ramler. The winner will be announced June 27. 

As a senior, the York, Pennsylvania, native can decide to end her UF career. But, due to the COVID-19 pandemic granting athletes an extra year of eligibility, she can also stay for a fifth season in the Swamp. 

Apr 14, 2022; Fort Worth, TX, USA; University of Florida gymnast Trinity Thomas holds her national champion trophy for finishing first in all around completion during the session two semi finals at Dickies Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Thomas, who retired from elite gymnastics last summer, has given no indication on whether she’ll return to Gainesville. 

While Thomas’ status looms large, she’s not the only Gator facing a decision. Seniors Halley Taylor, Leah Clapper, Sydney Johnson-Scharpf, Savannah Schoenherr and Nya Reed can all either stay or go. 

Of the team members who will come back in 2023, UF expects big showings from sophomore Ellie Lazarri and Hurd as both bounce back from injury. Freshman Sloane Blakely and Wong hope to improve their already stellar results. 

“The future is really bright for this team,” Rowland said. “We're returning a great solid core for next season. They've all experienced it, so they've all got a good taste and know what it takes to get to this point.”