ATHENS, Ga. - It doesn't matter where you start as long as you finish strong. That was at the top of the roller-coaster of emotions for the Gators in NCAA Gymnastics Regional Final action held Saturday evening in the Stegeman Coliseum. The Gators moved from last to first to claim the program's 37th' NCAA Championships berth.
Florida (197.70) and Minnesota (197.425) advance to the NCAA Championship, set for April 16-17 in Ft. Worth, Texas. Denver (197.275) and North Carolina State (196.15) rounded out Saturday's results.
All of yesterday's winning teams in the evening session at each of the nation's four regionals started final competition on vault.
Florida opened the meet with a 49.225 on vault, led by Savannah Schoenherr's runner-up mark of 9.925 and Megan Skaggs' 9.90. The other three teams all opened the meet with event totals of 49.325 - Minnesota (bars), Denver (beam) and North Carolina State (floor) - to share the early lead.
Bars drew stronger scores for the Gators. Freshman Gabrielle Gallentine anchored the lineup again with a 9.95 - equaling her collegiate best for the second consecutive night to take second overall. Trinity Thomas and Skaggs both posted 9.90s as the team posted a 49.475 to pull up to third at the midway point.
The Gators again used three 9.9 or better scores on beam to take a narrow 0.075 lead heading into the deciding rotation. Leah Clapper shared tonight's beam win at 9.95 with Minnesota's Lexy Ramler and Denver's Alexis Vasquez. Freshman Ellie Lazzari and senior Alyssa Baumann both posted 9.9s.
Florida's 49.55 on floor led all teams tonight. Junior Nya Reed shrugged off the problems of getting her steps down on vault to tie for second overall in the floor competition at 9.95. The opening three Gators - Clapper (9.90), Skaggs and Lazzari (9.925) - all set or equaled their collegiate floor bests.
Skaggs took third in the all-around (39.60) and Lazzari took fourth by matching her top collegiate total (39.525).
Two Gators were injured in floor warm-up Saturday - juniors Sydney Johnson-Scharpf and Halley Taylor. Payton Richards replaced Johnson-Scharpf in the floor lineup. Taylor was not in the floor lineup but is one of UF's top back ups on the event.
Vault: Mya Hooten, Minnesota 9.95
Bars: Lynnzee Brown, Denver 10.0
Beam: Leah Clapper, Florida 9.95 Alexis Vasquez, Denver 9.95 Lexy Ramler, Minnesota 9.95
Floor: Lynnzee Brown, Denver 10.00
AA: Lynnzee Brown, Denver 39.75
GATOR PERFORMANCE NOTES:
- Gators have claimed 19 Regional wins - 1982, '84, '85, '87, '97, '05, '06, '07, '08, '09, '10, '12, '13, '14, '15, '16, '17, '18, '21
- This will be Florida's 37th appearance in the 39-year history of the NCAA Championships.
- Four Gators posted or equaled collegiate-best marks Saturday:
|Leah Clapper||9.90- 2||Floor||Collegiate best|
|Gabrielle Gallentine Bars||9.95||Bars||Collegiate best|
|Gabrielle Gallentine||9.95||Bars||Collegiate best|
|Ellie Lazzari||9.925||Floor||Collegiate best|
|Megan Skaggs||39.525||All-Around||Collegiate best|
|Megan Skaggs||9.925||Floor||Collegiate best|
QUOTING THE GATORS:
Gators' performance tonight:
"[It was] so rewarding to see this team reap the benefits of all that they've had to do to overcome this year.
[We felt] a sense of gratitude, of gratefulness, of being able to do something that we love.
"It was a fight. It was a battle. It was awesome. It was a roller coaster of emotions. And that's what I love about gymnastics and that's what I love about being a Gator. [It was] really great to see these Gators be able to celebrate this successful moment.
"It was a hard [meet]. It was a great [meet] and you know what, every win is sweet. Something that we really tried to focus on this meet... was focusing on what we can control." - Florida Head Coach Jenny Rowland
"First of all, just really focus on the Orange and Blue, focus on the Gators tonight. Don't worry about anything that's out of our control and keep building on the momentum that we know we're capable of beginning with. Really make the most of this moment, it's an opportunity that this team did not have last year, so make the most of that moment. And enjoy yourselves." - Florida Head Coach Jenny Rowland
Emotions after this weekend's competition:
"This feeling is amazing. I've never been to Nationals before, so it's surreal to even make it this far. There's tears all around my team right now, like happy tears, and I think that we've been working so hard." - junior Nya Reed
"It means the world to me. I've been waiting for this for a long time.
This team deserved it, I think more than any other team I've seen. They are such fighters, and just seeing all the hard work, especially through a difficult and challenging time with COVID and everything, it just means so much more. Every little obstacle that we've overcome has made this moment so much more special, and it's going to make Nationals that much more rewarding." - senior Alyssa Baumann
Nya Reed's comeback after trouble on vault:
"I was really focused on doing it for my team. I had kind of a rough start with vault. I know that my team had my back with that vault, but I wanted to come back and have their back on floor.
"Just because something happens on one event, you don't take it to the next event. You don't move forward in that direction." - junior Nya Reed
"I didn't expect anything less from Nya. She is such a fighter, she's been such a great, inspiring leader for this team, and I knew she was going to take that step forward. She was gonna rise to the occasion and do what we knew she was capable of doing, and she did deliver." - Florida Head Coach Jenny Rowland
Alyssa Baumann's pep talks:
"It's different for each person. I've learned what each person needs, whether they need to get hyped up, whether they need me to go through their routine. Especially for freshmen, I just wanted to go up there and reassure them, because it can get nerve wracking, especially after a mistake or with all the pressure, and just tell them to be themselves." - senior Alyssa Baumann
Coach Rowland's message heading into NCAA Championships:
"Let's make the most of these next two weeks. This is the hardest part of the journey, and now it's time to get back in the gym and really just make the most of what we have. We've got two weeks, and this team is ready to go celebrate and have two great days at Nationals." - Florida Head Coach Jenny Rowland
The NCAA Championships are set for April 16-17 in Ft. Worth, Texas.
Here is the NCAA Championships competition schedule:
April 16 NCAA Semifinal I - 1p.m. ET - ESPN2
April 16 NCAA Semifinal II - 6 p.m. ET - ESPN2
April 17 NCAA Final - 3:30 p.m. ET - ABC
No. 1 seed Florida at NCAA Athens Regional Final Round