The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

Gators claim fifth-straight SEC Title with win over UK

101 days ago
Florida Athletics
Photo: UAA Communications photo by Hannah White

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Florida's Super Seniors now have a handful of rings, claiming their fifth consecutive Southeastern Conference gymnastics title Friday with a 198.15 - 197.575 win over No. 12 Kentucky.

Going into Friday's competition, Florida and Kentucky were in position to win the SEC regular-season title. Both entered the meet with a single league loss. Friday's meet closed league action for the Gators, giving them sole possession of the 2023 title at 6-1.

SEC TITLE:

  • Florida claims its 15th SEC gymnastics title and fifth consecutive (1982, '83, '84, '85, '89, '07, '10, '12, '13, 16, '19, '20, '21, '22, '23). This is the seventh year for the awarding of a regular-season SEC gymnastics title. From 1981-2016, the winner at the SEC Championship meet was considered the league champion.
  • Tonight's win ups Florida athletics overall SEC total to a league-high 259 titles. Add in lacrosse's 11 league titles, the Gator program has claimed 270 conference titles.
  • Gymnastics claims Florida athletics fourth SEC title of 2022-23, joining volleyball, men's & women's swimming & diving. Florida's picked up at least one SEC team title for 45 consecutive seasons - the league's longest current streak

Florida's win gives the Gators sole possession of the 2023 regular-season title.

SENIOR DAY CELEBRATION:
Florida had an expanded class this year with Super Seniors Leah Clapper, Savannah Schoenherr, Halley Taylor and Trinity Thomas repeating the celebration in 2023. They join transfer Rachel Baumann and senior Payton Richards along with manager Shea Wheeler for the celebration of their Gator careers, which followed Friday's competition.

Florida's 2023 senior class notes:

  • Advanced to NCAA team final in 2021 (4th) and 2022 (2nd)
  • Won 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022 & 2023 SEC regular-season trophies.
  • Swept 2022 SEC regular-season and Championship meet titles
  • Earned 31 All-America honors & two All-SEC team members
  • Four SEC event titles (2019 - Thomas -vault; 2022: Thomas - vault, floor, all-around) & three NCAA event titles (2022 - Thomas all-around, uneven bars & floor exercise)
  • Each earned Academic All-SEC honors every season of their collegiate careers

TONIGHT'S MEET
Florida was led on vault with season bests by Leanne Wong (9.925) and Sloane Blakely (9.90). Vault was won by the Wildcats, with Isabella Magnelli and Raena Worley sharing the win at 9.95.

The nation's 2023 high on any event, 49.80, was boosted by a trio of near-perfect 9.975s on uneven bars by Kayla DiCello, Trinity Thomas and Leanne Wong. Collegiate bests by sophomores led off and anchored the bars set. Blakely equaled her best of 9.925 and Riley McCusker closed the rotation with a collegiate best 9.95.

DiCello led the Gators on balance beam, sharing the event title with UK's Worley at 9.925. Thomas and Kentucky's Arianna Patterson tied at 9.90 for third.

Florida used five marks of 9.9 or better to close the meet with a 49.60 on floor exercise. Thomas won with an oh-so-close 9.975. Senior Payton Richards equaled her collegiate best of 9.925 to share third with UK's Worley and Hailey Davis. The Gators also got 9.9s from Rachel Baumann, Victoria Nguyen and DiCello.

Thomas posted a 39.70 to win her third-straight all-around title. Worley was second at 39.65 while DiCello took third at 39.60.

GATOR PERFORMANCE NOTES:

  • Florida's198.15 is the Gators second total among the nation's top 10 this season. Tonight's total is No. 7 and UF turned in the No. 2 total of 198.35 on Feb. 10.
  • Florida sold out 15 of the last 18 meets and the last nine consecutive. Tonight's crowd of 9,298 is the 10th largest since the Exactech Arena reopened in 2017 after renovations.
  • Two Florida event totals are the national highs in 2023 - tonight's uneven bars (49.80) and Feb. 10 floor exercise (49.725)
  • Florida's 49.80 on uneven bars trails the nation's all-time high of 49.825, set by UCLA in 2004 and matched by California (2021) and Oklahoma (2022)
  • This is the second time in program history Florida had three 9.975s on an event - with both coming in 2023.
  • In the Feb. 10 meet versus Missouri, the trio of Sloane Blakely, Trinity Thomas and Leanne Wong turned in 9.975s on floor.
  • Florida's twice had two 9.975s in an uneven bars rotation, with both of those instances involving Thomas and Wong (Jan. 21, 2022 and Jan. 27, 2023). Kayla DiCello joined Thomas and Wong with 9.975s tonight on uneven bars.
  • Trinity Thomas extends her career record to 30 all-around wins
  • Collegiate bests equaled or set tonight:
  • Sloane Blakely - 9.925 (bars)
  • Riley McCusker - 9.95 (bars)
  • Payton Richards - 9.925 (floor)

COACH ROWLAND SAID:
"I tell them this repeatedly and let them know how grateful we are to have a team of such strong women who love doing what they do, who love performing for each other and who love competing for Gator Nation. And if it wasn't for them, the fans wouldn't be there. So they've done a spectacular job inviting everybody into the O'Dome for gymnastics.

"Extremely grateful for our seniors and Super Seniors. None of us would be the same people that we are today without these six amazing young women. They're strong. They're bold. They're brave. They're caring. They're loving, kind and they've just shown a lot of grace and leadership over the last five years to win five SEC regular season championships. It was a great night. It was a lot of great gymnastics. Just really remember just enjoying the moment, watching these gymnasts do what they love." - Florida Head Coach Jenny Rowland

UP NEXT:
For the third time in 2023, the top dual meet of the day includes the Gators. This time, No. 2 Florida is at No. 1 Oklahoma.