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Florida gymnastics continues sizzling 2020: Another Trinity Thomas 10, another SEC road win

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The Gators dusted wobbly Auburn on the Plains, and will remain in a slew of lofty perches.

Erin Long

The Florida Gators have yet to fail a test in their 2020 season of gymnastics. And the Gators passed another one on the road on Friday.

In another confident road performance, the Gators, led by another 10 from Trinity Thomas and more precocious gymnastics from freshman Payton Richards, did exactly what they needed to do at Auburn on Friday night: They notched a high road score to add to their NQS, got another SEC win, and added some individual career-high scores along the way.

With this win, the Gators remain the only undefeated team in the SEC and well on their way to another SEC regular season title.

Last year, this point in the season is about when the Gators started to settle into scoring in the low 197s. But it seems like that will not be the case this season: This was a good, but not perfect, meet with room to improve — and it scored in the high 197s, as the Gators won the meet comfortably over an error-ridden Auburn team, 197.875 to 194.750.

The Gators started off on bars, where things were about as normal as they come. The Gators are strong on bars, but are still not regularly putting together those huge 49.55+ rotations that we are really expecting to see with a lineup that boasts the likes of Rachel Gowey, Amelia Hundley, Megan Skaggs, Thomas, and Savannah Schoenherr — all of whom can easily score above a 9.9.

This week, Richards led off again with a 9.85, showing her consistency on this event. Gowey followed with her own 9.85 with a small hop on the dismount. I think this was Gowey’s strongest routine this season, so we can expect that when she hits the dismount she should be scoring in the 9.9s. Hundley scored a 9.875 for her routine, which looks great on the bars but had a few errors on the dismount. Skaggs was fourth in the lineup and scored another 9.875 for a great routine. I would be interested to see the deductions that they are taking from her every week because it seems like she is sticking more often (and working on some leg separation issues), so I would be expecting her scores to rise.

Thomas was up in the fifth position again and hit a stunning routine again this week, scoring a 9.95 for a nearly perfect routine with a small slide back on her dismount. Right now, Thomas is far down the bars national ranking due to her fall at Missouri, but she should bounce back into the top five when NQS scoring kicks in. Schoenherr finished the rotation out with a 9.9 for another great routine, one which not only helped Florida finish out the rotation strong but that should keep her among the top 10 bars workers in the country and atop the SEC rankings.

The Gators finished the rotation with a 49.450, which is a great rotation score. But if the Gators want to win another championship, they will want to get sticks out of Gowey and Thomas and up that score another 0.1 at least.

The Gators headed over the vault already with a comfortable lead over Auburn. Florida had another solid vault rotation where they scored a 49.325, with all of the vaults scoring over 9.8. The rotation included clean Yurchenko fulls with hops back from Jazmyn Foberg and Skaggs (both scored 9.8), a 1.5 with a slightly low landing from Schoenherr for a 9.825, a 1.5 with a huge hop from Thomas that scored a 9.875, and Sierra Alexander’s stuck Yurchenko full for a 9.875. Richards anchored again and she scored a career-high 9.95 for a beautiful Yurchenko 1.5 that she nearly stuck. I can’t wait for her to stick that vault and get a 10!

This was a clean vault rotation but still lacked the sticks that the Gators will need to get those big post season wins! I think it’s a good sign that the Gators are hitting 9.8 level vaults, but if they want to challenge Oklahoma for the NCAA title they will need to start scoring in the 9.9s. Hopefully, we will see some more sticks next week at home vs. Alabama.

Through two rotations, Florida already had a comfortable lead over Auburn, and barring disaster knew that it would pick up the win and continue to be the only undefeated team in the SEC. The Gators headed to the floor to try to get their best road score.

Richards led off her second event of the night with what I think is the best routine of her career thus far. She had comfortably controlled landings on both her double layout and front tuck through to double tuck, and she hit her leaps with 180 splits. She scored a 9.825 — frankly, a little low. Gowey followed with a 9.85 for her routine; I am really enjoying seeing her in the lineup this year because she is so clean and elegant on all of her skills.

Hundley and Sydney Johnson-Scharpf then scored a pair of 9.9s for their hit routines. I love seeing how consistent Johnson-Scharpf is becoming; she is definitely one of the most improved athletes in the NCAA this season. Thomas did her usual, incredibly excellent routine. She had a small slide on her double pike to score another 9.95. (The 10 watch on floor is still going!) Alyssa Baumann anchored with a good routine, but not her best. She had a low landing on her double pike to score a 9.875.

At this point, after a beam disaster, the Gators were so far ahead of Auburn that beam became a mere victory lap. And Florida got creative with its freedom there, putting together a lineup that was slightly different this week: Hundley got a rest, and Jenny Rowland put Leah Clapper up in the anchor spot.

Richards led off her third event of the night with another great beam routine for a 9.875. I am really stunned with how she is handling these tough lineup spots as a freshman! Her scores would, I suspect, be higher farther back in the rotation, but she is clean and composed as a lead off to set the tone for the rotation. Johnson-Scharpf was in the second position and had her first error on beam of the season. She had a bit of a leg-up balance check on her series that hurt her score. I was impressed, however, that she hit the rest of the routine with confidence and showed why she is a great beam worker. She scored a 9.775, the first score below 9.8 for the Gators in the entire meet.

Baumann in the third position had a good but not perfect routine with two small errors (she didn’t get her switch half all the way around and had a small hop on the dismount) to score a 9.925. Her precision on all of her skills allows her to get these high scores even with 1 or 2 small errors. Gowey did her usual and scored a 9.95 for a nearly perfect routine — the only thing that I saw was a small lean between her front aerial and the sissone.

Thomas was up fifth and the expectations were high following her perfect 10 on the beam last week. She did not disappoint. She had a stunning routine — dare I say, better than last week’s — to score her third perfect 10 on the season and second on beam. This will keep her in the No. 1 spot nationwide on the event.

Clapper was put in to the anchor spot where she did very well last season. She had a nearly perfect routine — likely her best collegiate routine — hitting her triple series, showing much improved extension on her leaps, and sticking her side aerial to full dismount to score a 9.875 and finish out the meet for the Gators.

The Gators were able to scratch Johnson-Scharpf’s score and finish the rotation with an amazing 49.625 on the beam. This should keep the Gators as the No. 1 beam in team in the country — and after watching this rotation, you could see why, as the Gators have a special confidence and control of the apparatus.

Trinity Thomas came away with a handful more event titles, winning the all-around (39.775), bars (9.95), beam (10), and floor (9.95) titles. Richards was the only competitor who prevented a full Thomas sweep, as she won her second event title of her career on the vault with her 9.95.

Keep in mind that while Thomas is currently ranked 5th in the all-around nationally, that average includes her fall on bars at Missouri and she should climb up the rankings as soon at the NQS starts. I expect we will see her first or second, with Kyla Ross taking the other position. Oklahoma’s Maggie Nichols has scored some amazing all-around scores this season, but at this point has not competed enough to have an NQS.

Next week the Gators are home for the Link to Pink meet against Alabama. This will be a test the Gators: The Crimson Tide have been surging this season and they are also in the conversation to win the SEC championship. The meet is an early one, starting at 5:45 Eastern, and will be on the SEC Network once again. Make sure to wear your pink!

My must-see routines this week are Payton Richards and Sierra Alexander on vault, Trinity Thomas on bars and beam, Leah Clapper on beam, and Sydney Johnson-Scharpf on floor.