Florida Gators Defeat Alabama Gymnastics
The second-ranked Florida gymnastics team defeated No. 11 Alabama 197.375-196.450 in Coleman Coliseum Friday night.
A few minor injuries lead to three new faces entering the lineup for the first time this season. Fifth-year senior Sania Mitchell and junior Shania Adams made their season debuts, with Mitchell competing on vault and Adams on vault and floor. Freshman Lauren Little made her collegiate debut on vault and bars.
Makarri Doggette and Shallon Olsen didn't compete against the Gators because of minor injuries. Doggette rolled her ankle and Olsen had "a little bit of a tweak." Head coach Ashley Johnston didn't want them competing at less than 100%.
"It just wasn't worth the risk," Johnston said. "It's a long season. I always say it's a marathon, not a sprint... We're trying to keep the bigger picture in mind."
Alabama definitely didn't get off to the start it hoped for. The first three gymnasts each scored below a 9.800 on vault. Florida's first two gymnasts didn't score the best but still outscored Bama. The Gators' final four bar routines scored a 9.9+. The Crimson Tide trailed 49.425-49.100.
Lilly Hudson started off the bar rotation with a 9.775. Little performed next and ended up falling on her routine. Bama needed the rest of the lineup to be on point if it hoped to cut into Florida's lead. Being the gymnast who competes right after a fall is nerve wracking. There's so much pressure on the gymnast to perform flawlessly which can lead to that gymnast making uncharacteristic mistakes. Jordyn Paradise went a little too hard on one of her handstands and over rotated it, causing her to fall. Alabama had to count Paradise's 9.300 in its overall score which dug the team into a deep hole; however, the final three gymnasts on bars finished the rotation strong.
Alabama bounced back from the disappointing first half of the meet to put up its best beam and floor overall scores of the season. Ella Burgess started the Tide off on beam with a 9.900. While Burgess scored the Tide's only 9.900 of the rotation, the rest of the lineup performed solid routines and didn't have any major mistakes. Alabama counted three 9.850's, one 9.800 along with Burgess's 9.900. The consistent routines Bama performed on beam lead to its highest beam total of the season.
The final rotation got off to a rocky start with Mati Waligora scoring a 9.750 and Cam Machado scoring a 9.675, but the final four routines scored 9.9's or better. Adams got the streak going in her debut on floor with a 9.900. Reigning SEC Freshman of the Week, Gabby Gladieux, performed her way to a 9.900 of her own. Hudson performed her best floor routine of the season and was rewarded with a 9.925.
Blanco anchored the lineup with her best routine this season. The team and fans were chanting "Ten! Ten! Ten," but the judges gave her a score of 9.950.
Having a student section packed to the max meant a lot to the gymnasts.
"When you have a student section that has your back, you just feel it," Gladieux said. "No matter what you're doing, you just feel that energy and it really helps carry you."
Johnston echoed those feelings and believed the crowd is a "difference maker" when it comes to how the gymnasts perform.
"While we had a little mistake tonight that we had to come back from, the fans were a huge part of how we came back and having season highs on beam and floor says a lot about how the fans were apart of that," Johnston said.
Alabama travels to Kentucky for its next meet on Jan. 27. The meet starts at 6:30 p.m. CT and will air on the SEC Network. The Crimson Tide returns to Coleman Coliseum for the annual Power of Pink meet in the gymnastics Iron Bowl showdown against Auburn on Feb. 3.
"We need every single person there," Johnston said. "I hope our students are at capacity, and I hope our general admission is capacity as well."
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