Florida gymnastics: Gators top Georgia, now holds SEC record for regular-season win streak

Ainslie Lee
The Gainesville Sun

Traffic around Gainesville was a doozy Friday evening.

Between the daily 5 p.m. traffic and the second-ranked Florida Gators gymnastics team selling out their seventh-consecutive home meet, the congestion around Florida’s campus was a nightmare.

“I’m not too upset about that,” Florida gymnastics head coach Jenny Rowland said with a shrug. “It’s a good problem. Not complaining.”

Well good news, coach … the Gators’ next home meet against Missouri on February 10 is already sold out.

And hopefully, when the Tigers come to town in two weeks, the Gators can come away with a similar result as they did against Georgia Friday night: a 197.900 to 196.850 victory.

Florida's score was the highest it's posted all season.

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Here are takeaways.

Gators’ win a significant one

With Florida’s win over Georgia, the Gators now hold the Southeastern Conference’s regular-season unbeaten streak record with a 24-0-1 mark that dates to March 1, 2019 when the Gators topped Arkansas in Fayetteville.

And as fate would have it, it’s the Bulldogs that the Gators leaped over to secure the record-breaking mark. Georgia previously held the record with a 24-0 mark that ended in 1996 and a 23-0-1 record that ended in 2010.

"I think it's a great testament to the team," Rowland said. "How dedicated they are in the gym, how dedicated they are outside the gym and really them taking ownership of this amazing team."

Interestingly, Georgia is also the only team Florida has met every year in the gymnastics program’s 51-year history.

And while Florida earned top marks on every apparatus Friday night, Georgia freshman Naya Howard turned in a solid evening of work after appearing on each apparatus and turning in an all-around total of 39.350, which was second-best behind Florida’s Leanne Wong, who turned in the meet’s top all-around score with a 39.650.

Trinity Thomas makes history with another Perfect 10

Anytime Trinity Thomas steps up to an apparatus, you can physically feel everyone’s eyes shift to watch the 5-foot-3 Pennsylvania native.

Given Thomas entered Friday night’s contest with 22 10s in her college career, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that perfect marks are expected from her.

"Everybody just expects and knows she's going to do what she does in the gym every day, every single turn," Rowland said. "And whatever that is, whatever the judges end up giving that, then that's what it is. But I think that's the best part about Trin is that she gives her heart and soul in the gym every turn, every time. So you know what you're going to get."

Despite the lofty expectations, the pressure doesn’t get to her. If anything, the pressure she feels is self-inflicted, Thomas says.

But in Thomas’ first routine of the night, if there was pressure, she concealed it well as she kickstarted her three-event night with a perfect 10 on the vault. Friday’s perfect score increased her total to 23 career 10s, which puts her in sole possession of fourth place among all-time collegiate 10.0 leaders.

Thomas is just five perfect scores away from joining UCLA’s Jamie Dantzscher and Kentucky’s Jenny Hansen as the list’s leaders.

Friday’s perfect 10 was more than just another to add to Thomas' list. It also completed her fourth gym slam – a term used to describe a gymnast earning a perfect score on each apparatus.

Thomas had already earned four 10s on the bars and beam, along with an unbelievable 11 perfect scores on the floor coming into Friday's meet.

With her perfect vault performance, Thomas beat her own record of three gym slams.

And it didn’t come as a surprise to Thomas that it took her a while to get her fourth 10.0 on vault.

"I've struggled with vault since I was little," laughed Thomas. "It was terrifying to me, I wasn't very good at it."

Florida honors alumni with throwback leotards

The Gators came out in a different look Friday night − white leotards with a blue 'F' centered on the front with subtle orange and blue detailing.

Florida Gators gymnast Leanne Wong performs her floor exercise as her teammates watch. The Florida women's gymnastic team hosted the Georgia Bulldogs at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL on Friday, January 27, 2023. Florida defeated Georgia 197.900 to 196.850.  [Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner]

The idea was to honor Florida gymnastics' alumni.

"They were going through a lot of pictures from the past," Rowland said. "But it was very 80s vibes with a little 2023 crystal twist."

Friday's retro uniforms were credited to team manager Shea Wheeler and former Gators gymnast and current assistant to the head coach, Megan Skaggs.

"They're the one's who approached me," Rowland said. "I trust both of them. They came up with the design and I thought it was really solid. It looked amazing on the Gators and a great tribute to our alumni night."

Typically, the Gators' leotards are designed during spring break of the year prior. However, that wasn't the case with the ones Florida wore against Georgia.

"Usually it takes a really long time," Rowland said. "However, Megan and Shea, I think, started the process the first of January. We had another leo that we were trying to design, but the concept just wasn't coming together so we scrapped it. And they went for it and it took no time."