Trinity Thomas had an off night. And for Florida gymnastics’ junior superstar and Olympic aspirant, that’s a truly rare sight.
But it wasn’t nearly enough to keep the No. 1 Gators from cruising through their first home meet of the season against No. 7 Georgia, notching a respectable 197.250 and thumping the Gym Dogs by more than a point.
On the occasion of Thomas’s first fall in almost a year, her classmates — juniors Leah Clapper, Nya Reed, and Sydney Johnson-Scharpf — were the most prominent parts of the contingent that stepped up to make sure the Gators’ score wouldn’t suffer. But they didn’t need to until late in the meet.
Coming off of last weekend’s surprisingly strong vault rotation, the pressure was on for the Gators to repeat their stuck landings of this first apparatus. Unfortunately, first-event excitement got the best of the Gators, and they had to settle for a considerably lower score than last week. Payton Richards led off with her Yurchenko full for 9.75, followed by fulls from Ellie Lazzari (9.825) and Megan Skaggs (9.85). While mid-9.8 scores are decent for a 9.95 start value vault, the Gators will definitely want those vaults to score 9.9 again in the coming weeks.
The second half of the lineup featured Yurchenko 1.5s (10.0 SV) from Savannah Schoenherr (9.825) and Reed (9.85), which were solid but left room for improvement on their landings. Thomas finished out the rotation with a team-high 9.9 for a big 1.5Y. She was unable to stick the landing in the spectacular way that she did last week, but still brought in the highest Gator score because of her form in the air. The Gators scored a 49.250 on vault, which is good for this time of year, but pales in comparison to the 49.550 scored last week.
Last week, the Gators struggled on bars and had to count two scores in the 9.7s, so the pressure was on as the Gators headed here next. Richards was back in the lineup this week and led off with a 9.750 for a slightly messy routine with a lot of leg separation on her dismount; she will want to clean that up as the season progresses. Freshman Gabbie Gallentine, whom you may remember that had a large error in her routine last week, performed second and impressed with a much cleaner routine, capped by a perfectly straight double layout dismount. She scored a 9.825 due to some loose knees and steps on her landing, but I think she will only get better throughout the season. Skaggs and Schoenherr followed with a pair of 9.825s for good routines with landing errors — and if you’re sensing a theme, know that Jenny Rowland is, too.
Thomas was up in the fifth position and delivered for the Gators with a nearly perfect routine for a 9.95. Clapper was once again the anchor — I believe the coaches are putting her here to take the pressure off in hypothetical five-hit rotations because she is not as seasoned a competitor on this apparatus — and scored a 9.8 for a good routine. It appears like the Gators kept Lazzari out of this lineup this week, but they will want her lines back later in the season. Florida’s 49.225 bars event score was better than last week, but leaves a lot of room for improvement throughout the season.
The Gators next headed over to their best event, the beam. Richards led off once again and scored a 9.875 for a clean routine. Johnson-Scharpf followed with a very solid routine for another 9.875 — her dismount was incredibly floaty! Lazzari, who scored a 9.95 on beam last week, hit her routine again this week for a 9.85. In the fourth position, Clapper had a strong routine with complete control on her triple series to score a 9.925.
Senior Alyssa Baumann also turned in a good routine, but a little balance check on her switch leap half and a step on her dismount, which made her settle for a 9.85. At this point in the rotation, the Gators were set up for a strong event score, just needing Thomas to do her usual and score 9.9+. Unfortunately, for the first time in her Gator career, Thomas fell off the beam on her series and ended up scoring a 9.25, which would of course be dropped. The 49.375 team score on beam was good enough to keep the Gators in first place nationally on the event — and keep Georgia, which by this point had notched the one 9.9+ score it would record all night, well at bay — but was not as exciting at the 49.5+ scores that this team is accustomed to.
The Gators wrapped the meet up on floor, where Clapper led off in her third event of the night to score a 9.8. In the second position, Richards put a hand down on her last pass, which unfortunately took her out of the running to win her first all-around contest of the year. She settled for a 9.325. Johnson-Scharpf put things back on track with a 9.9 for a great performance.
Baumann showed great control on her tumbling passes and was able to stay on her feet for her double pike this week to add a 9.925 to the team total. In the fifth position, Reed had her best routine so far with great landings on all three of her passes and high leaps — I was specifically impressed with her clean landing on her combination pass which sometimes gives her trouble. She received a career-high 9.975, meaning that she got a 10.0 from one of the two judges, and deserved it for what was unequivocally the routine of the meet.
After Reed, Thomas was set up for a huge score, but unfortunately over-rotated her double pike and stepped out of bounds, ultimately having to settle for a 9.8 that left her with two scores under 9.9 on a single night for the first time since a 2020 meet at Missouri in which she fell on bars and took a 9.725 on vault.
If past is prologue, though, it’s unlikely that Thomas will suffer much for her struggles: After that January meet last year, Thomas recorded just two more scores under 9.9 on the season over a total of 28 routines.
With Thomas and Richards both falling, Georgia’s Haley de Jong picked up the all-around title with a score of 39.175 over teammate Megan Roberts (39.150). Thomas did still pick up the vault (9.90) and bars titles (9.95), and finished third in the all-around. Clapper won the beam title (9.925), while Reed’s 9.975 was good for the floor title.
After the rest of competition this weekend, the Gators will remain No. 1 nationally, holding their edge over No. 2 Oklahoma, who scored a 197.025 in their meet against Utah. No. 3 Michigan and No. 4 Minnesota finish out the current Top 4 teams in the country. The Gators remain the No. 1 team on vault and beam after this week’s competition, but will drop to No. 11 on bars and No. 5 on floor. In the Top 10 individually are, Thomas (No. 2 vault, T-No. 9 bars), Lazzari (T-No. 6 beam), and Reed (T-No. 3 floor).
In addition to what they did during competition, several Gators also took to the floor to make statements in support of social justice on Friday. While not shown on the SEC+ or ESPN2 broadcast this weekend, five athletes — Savannah Schoenherr, Nya Reed, Ellie Lazzari, Chloi Clark, and Alex Magee — chose to kneel during the playing of the national anthem in support of the ongoing social justice movement. In the post-meet press conference, Reed praised Rowland for being “someone who stands behind us and what we believe in.”
Several of these athletes also posted messages on social media this weekend voicing their opinions. Clark said “I want those around me that face racial injustices to know that I support them and although I will never experience the same injustices, I will use my voice to bring about change.” Schoenherr, who publicly came out as gay this summer, wrote “… There have been an endless number of incidents displaying hatred, acts of racisms, homophobia and more. I kneel because there is not ‘justice for all’...” Reed also wore “#EQUALITY” on the back of her leg, explaining in post-meet comments that she did so because “it’s more than just fixing mistreatment of ethnic grounds who differ from the white societal view.”
Full statements from Schoenherr, Clark, and Lazzari can be found below.
From Ellie Lazzari on Instagram. I’m so proud of these athletes for using their platforms pic.twitter.com/l4QZj95h0Y— Dr. Sam, PhD (@samisadancer) January 16, 2021
Next week, the Gators will be away again, this time at No. 8 Arkansas. The meet will again be streamed live on SECN+.
When: Friday, January 22, 2021 at 8:00 p.m.
Where: Barnhill Arena at University of Arkansas