Florida welcomed Alabama to the O'Connell Center on Friday for an early-season showdown between two of the SEC's — and the nation's — best gymnastics squad. And Alabama didn't disappoint, putting up a season-high 197.525 score that is the best road score of the season, and very briefly ranked as the second-best in the country all year.
Then Florida finished a historic night with the nation's highest score yet.
The Gators made school history by posting three perfect 10s from three different gymnasts on three different apparatuses — Alex McMurty notched a 10 on uneven bars, Bridget Sloan nabbed a 10 on the balance beam, and Kennedy Baker scored the first 10 of her career for a floor exercise — and drubbed the Tide with a massive 198.175 score that is by far the best by any team this year and ties for seventh in program history.
Florida had never recorded three 10s in a single meet or multiple 10s on difference apparatuses in a single meet before Friday night. The Gators last had two 10s in one meet in 2014, when Sloan and Kytra Hunter had back-to-back 10s on the floor, and first had them in 1996, when Kristen Guise and Amy Myerson each posted them on the bars.
Those scores fueled a Gators assault that featured scores of 49.475 or better in all four rotations, and scores of 9.900 or better in 12 of Florida's 24 total routines. Sloan won the all-around with a 39.775, and Baker and Alicia Boren shared the victory on vault with twin 9.95s, while the three 10s obviously carried their individual events.
With the scores, Florida will maintain its stranglehold on the nation's No. 1 ranking, and also moves into the top three of all four event rankings. Florida leads the bars and beam rankings, is second on floor, and checks in at third on vault, and the Gators have at least a share of the nation's best score this year on every apparatus but beam — where their 49.525 on Friday was just fractionally behind Alabama's 49.550.
Alabama's score is the third-best in the nation so far this season, but Florida has the two highest, and the only ones in excess of 197.600. The Gators' lead on 2014 national co-champion Oklahoma in the overall rankings also grew from just less than a tenth of a point to almost three and a half tenths.
Put simply, Florida faced another challenge from a top-tier team on Friday, and responded by blowing that team away. If the Gators can continue to improve, and put together performances comparable to this show-stopping one on the road, a four-peat will seem more than merely possible.