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Gators start off red-hot in 2020

183 days ago
Florida Athletics
Photo: Florida Athletics

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Gator gymnastics equaled the nation's top opening team score Friday to begin the 2020 season with a solid win.

Florida opened 2020 season and Southeastern Conference action with a 197.35-194.40 win versus Arkansas in front of 7,531 at the Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center.

TONIGHT'S MEET: 

Several teams opened the 2020 campaign last weekend. Defending NCAA champion Oklahoma opened its season last weekend also with a 197.35.

The Gators' 197.35 set the program's all-time best for a season opener, upping the previous high of 197.30 set in the 2019 opener.

Florida took the top two on each of the apparatus final standings. Sophomore Trinity Thomas' four titles includes setting the Gators' season opening all-around total best of 39.70. That stands second for 2020 opening all-around totals behind UCLA senior Kyla Ross's 39.725 set last week. Some big scores boosted Thomas' all-around, as she earned the ninth (balance beam) and 10th (floor exercise) 9.975 mark of her career. She also won bars at 9.925.

Sophomore Nya Reed equaled her collegiate vault best of 9.875 to take her first collegiate title on the event. She also matched her floor best of 9.925 to take second.

Florida's lone freshman Payton Richards anchored the vault lineup with her runner-up mark of 9.85. Senior Amelia Hundley was second on bars at 9.875. Three Gators scored a 9.9 or better on beam tonight, with senior Rachel Gowey matching her collegiate best of 9.95 and junior Alyssa Baumann taking third at 9.90.

GATOR PERFORMANCE NOTES:

  • Florida's 197.35 is its all-time high in a season opener. The previous high of 197.30 came versus Missouri in the 2019 opener. Before 2019, the previous season opening best of 197.125 cam in 2008.
  • Thomas raised her career event titles total to 30 tonight, which includes seven all-around wins.
  • Five marks tonight by UF returners equaled or set collegiate bests:
  • Rachel Gowey - 9.95 (beam)
  • Nya Reed - 9.875 (vault), 9.925 (floor)
  • Thomas - 9.975 (beam, floor)
  • Thomas' 9.975s on beam and floor are the Gators' all-time high in a season opener. Florida also has a 10.0 (Bridget Sloan - vault - 2015) and another 9.975 (Melanie Sinclair - bars - 2007) among its top opening event marks.
  • Florida's 49.475 is the nation's highest season opening beam total of 2020.

RECORDS: Florida (1-0, 1-0 SEC), Arkansas (0-1, 0-1 SEC).

THE SERIES: Florida leads the series 44-3.

HEAR FROM THE GATORS:

Opening Statement

"We matched the nation's high in the first meet of the year, very cool! Really solid start for this team. I think everyone is really relieved after the anticipation and the build-up. We had a long wait after season and the chip that this team has carried, it was a constant reminder during preseason. That made it a little longer, yet easier to get through.

"This team really had a purpose and a will to work together as team to get through the tough times. I am ecstatic and exceptionally proud of everyone for what they have accomplished up to now. I know that it is just the first meet and we have a really long road ahead of us, but this first meet was a lot of build up for this team and they came in strong. We had several workouts over the last few weeks trying to be too perfect. We know this team is really good and the only thing that is going to stand in the way is them trying too hard. It was really nice to see them come out and be relaxed. The team looked focused, yet calm. We worked on breathing - that was our word today. Everyone executed that really well tonight.

"Solid start, obviously we left a lot of things out there tonight, but that is to be expected. I couldn't ask for anything more from tonight. We have something to look forward - getting back into the gym, to keep pushing and to keep that foot on the gas pedal." - Florida Head Coach Jenny Rowland

On starting fresh after the way last season ended...

"I was so excited. I think ending last year the way we did, we could have done one of two things. We could have let it bring us down, or we could have learned from it and worked with it, and we definitely have been working so hard in the gym. You can really tell. We were so excited to get back out here and start the season like this. It's just amazing because it's only up from here and we're going to do great things." - sophomore Trinity Thomas

On Payton's performance:

"Payton is a very old soul. She is confident, easy going and calm in any situation. You can put her in any situation in the gym under pressure and she reacts the same. We knew coming into competition, you can put her first or you can put her last and you know without a doubt that Payton is going to hit her routine. To have that confidence that early in your collegiate career, I know it calms the rest of the team down - I know everyone else feels that way as well." - Florida Head Coach Jenny Rowland

On her first experience competing as a Gator...

"It was crazy. I came in as the only freshman and I think throughout this preseason we've all grown so much. They really took me under their wing, all of the upperclassmen - even the sophomores - so it was great. I think tonight was very calm. I was super nervous because I've never competed in an arena like this with that many people watching, but having your teammates next to you makes the biggest difference. It was so much fun, I really enjoyed it." - freshman Payton Richards

On what stood out tonight

"The normalcy of this team out on the competition floor. They did what we expected them to do out on the floor, there were no surprises. Little things here and there were not a complete surprise, but they are great building blocks. I just know this team right now is taking a deep breath and is relieved. I think they will take a lot of confidence away from tonight and they will grab onto it and run. I am really excited to get back into the gym, that foot is going to be down on the gas pedal." - Florida Head Coach Jenny Rowland

On Gator Nation's support tonight:

"I don't know if Gator Nation understands what an effect they have on this team. They bring so much joy, excitement and adrenaline to this group of athletes. Gator Nation really makes it the most amazing experience for our student-athletes to compete." - Florida Head Coach Jenny Rowland

On her performance...

"I had lots of fun out there tonight, it's so fun to be back out there with my team. We've been itching to be in the O'Dome for weeks now, so to finally get out there and finally showing Gator Nation what we've got this year is amazing." - sophomore Trinity Thomas

On giving their teammates pep talks before each routine...

"Everybody needs something different, really. Basically, we talk to each other and ask each other what we need and we give them either something to pump them up or something to calm them down before the event they're about to go up on. For me, it really helps, and I know for a lot of my teammates it helps as well." - sophomore Trinity Thomas

National Rank:

Florida - Florida is No. 3 in the Women's Collegiate Gymnastics Association preseason poll.

Arkansas - The Razorbacks are No. 19 in the WCGA preseason poll.

UP NEXT:

Florida travels to face No. 8 Missouri on Friday, Jan. 17 in the Hearnes Center. The 7 p.m. ET meet kicks off a SEC Network triple-header.