The preseason No. 3 Florida Gators gymnastics team opens the 2019 season versus the No. 11 Missouri Tigers.
The matchup is the beginning of eight-straight meets versus teams ranked in the Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association (WCGA) preseason top 20. The season opener is at home for the first time since 2013, taking place in Exactech Arena at Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Friday, Jan. 11.
The Gator Standard
History — and loads of hype — is on the Gators side entering the season opener. Florida is 23-1 all-time versus Missouri, beating the Tigers in the 2018 SEC Championships and finishing third (Missouri finished seventh). However, the one loss to Missouri occurred last season, when the then No. 5 Gators fell on the road in their last SEC regular season meet.
The home team’s 15-women roster welcomes back veterans and introduces six freshmen. Four veterans — Alyssa Baumann, Alicia Boren, Rachel Gowey and Amelia Hundley — return with 11 All-America honors earned at the NCAA Championships.
The six freshmen, tied for most on the team since 2004 and 2005, are the top-ranked recruiting class in CollegeGymFans.com’s yearly rankings. Additionally, Florida finished at the top of the rankings for a second consecutive year.
Eyes will be on Trinity Thomas, the only 2019 collegiate who is a member of the current U.S. Senior National Team. Thomas earned an international medal when the U.S. took gold at the 2018 Senior Pan American Championships in Lima, Peru.
Despite the Gators history, the Tigers 2019 season opener is already history.
Missouri began the season 3-0 after a quad-meet versus No. 20 Arizona State, No. 23 Minnesota and Illinois-Chicago. The 14 letter-winners and three freshmen finished with the 11th best overall score on opening weekend (195.45). The highest ever season-opening overall score for the Gators (197.125) occurred in 2008 versus the latter, Illinois-Chicago.
Tigers senior Britney Ward and junior Aspen Tucker earned event wins in the quad meet. Ward’s 9.95 on the beam and Tucker’s 9.9-floor performance were enough for wins. Missouri hit 22 of 24 routines and Head Coach Shannon Welker said she was happy with how her team set the tone.
Missouri will try to climb in the rankings when they battle Florida in Gainesville on Friday at 6:45 p.m.