With another awesome performance to its name's Florida's gymnastics team will finally be adding a new honorific to "nation's best gymnastics team": "No. 1 in the country."
The No. 3 Gators put up a 198.200, almost four points better than Missouri's 194.300, in their first visit to the Show-Me State on Friday night. That total, their best road score of the season — the nation's best road score of the season — will push Florida's Regional Qualifying Score to 197.790, enough to overtake No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Oklahoma. The Tigers added a 197.800 in a home meet on Friday night, and will improve their RQS to 197.715, while Oklahoma put up scores of 198.150 and a 197.425 on the road, which will lift its RQS to 197.660 — the same number LSU had entering last week.
Florida will be the nation's No. 1 team when rankings are updated on Monday, allowing the Gators to take the No. 1 seed — and the Olympic rotation that comes with it — at next Saturday's SEC Championships. And all that frustration about gymnastics' arcane ranking system? It amounts to young man yells at cloud.
Florida's young women, meanwhile, just danced among them on Friday — again. Kytra Hunter put up another 10.0 on the floor exercise — tying a school record for 10.0s on a single apparatus (and the floor) in a season and a career with four, and adding a sixth 10.0 to her school records for single-season and career 10.0s. Bridget Sloan tied Alaina Johnson's school record for all-around score, established last Friday, with a 39.825 of her own, comprised of a 9.975 on the uneven bars and 9.95s in her other three events. Florida counted nothing less than a 9.850 and scored no less than 49.475 on all four apparatuses en route to setting a new school record for road score.
And yet there's still room to improve. Hunter fell on the uneven bars, preventing her from making a run at an all-around score of 39.700 or better; Johnson's all-around 39.575 would have been within a point of her career high if not for last week's record performance, and we now know she's capable of earning another tenth or two; most of Florida's other gymnasts were somewhat shy of their collegiate bests on Friday night.
This team is deep — 12 of the 22 highest all-around scores in America this year have been posted by Florida gymnasts, and four different Gators (Sloan, Johnson, Hunter, and Mackenzie Caquatto) have posted those scores — and ridiculously talented and proven and focused, and it will be the national championship favorite this week just like it was last week and the week before as the No. 3 team.
But it's nice to be No. 1.