PITTSBURGH, Pa. - It was a nail-biter to the end but No. 2 Florida gymnastics took second in Sunday's NCAA Pittsburgh Regional final to advance to the NCAA Championships.
California and Florida advance to the NCAA Championships, set for April 13-15 in Ft. Worth, Texas. This will be Florida's 39th appearance in the 41-year history of the NCAA Championships.
All the second session winners at each of the nation's four region sites opened final competition on uneven bars.
Defending NCAA all-around champion Trinity Thomas sat out Sunday's meet as she suffered a right lower leg injury in Friday's NCAA Regional second round. Her status is day-to-day. She was on the sideline Sunday to cheer the Gators.
Florida opened the meet with five consecutive stuck uneven bar landings as UF posted a 49.575. Leanne Wong led UF with her third near-perfect 9.975 bars mark of the season. Freshman Kayla DiCello earned a 9.95 and sophomore Riley McCusker posted a 9.925.
A six-for-six balance beam set for a 49.60 gave the Gators a 0.275 lead at the meet's midpoint. Wong again posted a near-perfect 9.975 to take the beam win. DiCello turned in her third consecutive beam 9.95 while McCusker and Payton Richards earned 9.9s.
A pair of out-of-bounds dinged the Gators' floor exercise total of 49.325. Wong's 9.925 led UF on floor while the team got a 9.9 from both DiCello and Richards.
Florida entered the final rotation with a slight 0.50 lead over California and a 0.250 margin for a top-two team position.
The Gators led off with a 9.9 by Wong and a 9.95 for Richards - equaling her collegiate vault best. That mark tied Richards for the afternoon's vault win with Arizona State's Anaya Smith. Florida tallied a 49.30 on vault and then waited to see if its 197.80 would finish among the top two.
California closed the meet with a meet's floor high of 49.625 to take the win at 198.075.
Half of the meet's top six all-arounders were Gators. Wong won her sixth all-around of 2023 at 39.775. DiCello was fourth at 39.675 and Richards set her collegiate high all-around (39.575) to take sixth.
SUNDAY'S EVENT WINNERS:
Vault: 9.95 Payton Richards, UF Anaya Smith, ASU
Bars: 9.975 Leanne Wong, UF
Beam: 9.975 Leanne Wong, UF
Floor: 9.975 eMjae Frazier, California
AA: 39.775 Leanne Wong, UF
GATOR PERFORMANCE NOTES:
- The nation's top two all-around totals in 2023 NCAA Regional action belong to Gators - Kayla DiCello (39.80 - NCAA Regional Second Round) and Leanne Wong (39.775 - NCAA Regional Final)
- This is Wong's second meet of her Gator career with a pair of 9.975. She had near perfect 9.975s on vault and floor in the 2022 regular-season finale at NC State quad.
- Wong earned a bars mark of 9.975 in both NCAA Regional Finals she's participated in, using that mark to also win the Auburn Regional Final in 2022.
- Wong's three balance beam 9.975s of her career won the 2022 and 2023 Southeastern Conference titles and the 2023 NCAA Pittsburgh Regional Final.
- Senior Payton Richards set her all-around best (39.575), equaled her vault best (9.95) and earned her season beam high (9.9) in Sunday's meet
- A Gator has won all-around in each of UF's 13 meets this season.
- Florida's 49.60 was the sixth balance beam total of 2023 of 49.60 or higher for the team.
- Collegiate bests tonight: Payton Richards: 39.575 (all-around), 9.95 (vault)
The 41st NCAA Championships are April 13-15 NCAA Championships in Ft. Worth, Texas.
Florida competes in April 13 NCAA Semifinal I at 3 p.m. ET. California and two teams yet to be determined join UF in semifinal I.
NCAA Semifinal II includes UCLA, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Utah.