After building momentum through an undefeated SEC campaign and rising all the way to No. 2 in the polls, the UF Gymnastics team ended their 2020 season with a lack of conclusiveness. The early stages of what would become a nation-wide pandemic ended their season early and vanquished any hopes of reaching their goal of a national title. After such disappointment, the 2021 team is hungry for success.
Preparing for 2021
While the seniors from last year’s team are no longer competing, their spirit and energy still seem to be with the team. The frustration of their careers’ ending is fuel for the 2021 team to work hard and finish off what the class of 2020 started.
“We put in so much work last year, so it was very hard and sad to have that all cut short and not be able to finish out the season,” senior Megan Skaggs said. “I think going into this year keeping them in mind and honoring the hard work that they put into this team last year is something that really keeps us motivated. We’re not just doing it for this current team, but we’re doing it for last year’s team as well.”
Throughout the summer and fall, the team trained and prepared through the pandemic to ensure their peak performance once the season began. Since access to their regular gyms was limited, the team put an extra emphasis on staying in shape to be primed for the spring season.
“I would just say the development was a slower progression,” Head Coach Jenny Rowland said. “Moreso just conditioning, training, physical gymnastics, and just being in good shape.”
“Our mindset, our work ethic, that’s all the same gators gymnastics standards. There‘s nothing different there.”- Head Coach Jenny Rowland
Rowland, in her sixth year as the head coach for Florida, will be the reigning Coach of the Year. Her team will feature three returning All-American gymnasts: senior Alyssa Baumann, and juniors Savannah Schoenherr and Trinity Thomas. Thomas is the reigning SEC Gymnast of the year and a Honda Sports Award finalist, so she will look to pick up where she left off after an incredible sophomore season. While the Gators won an SEC title in 2020, their expectations reach beyond the conference level in 2021. Florida was ranked No. 1 in the pre-season poll, and will likely search for their first national championship since 2015.
“We’ve all definitely stepped up a lot this year and took on leadership roles in different ways and really just have been there for the team and tried to help the most that we can,” Schoenherr said. “Whether that’s with the freshman or anybody that really needs it and just serving as a great support system, I’d say, and just really optimizing every situation and everything that has been thrown our way and just making the most out of it.”
Looking past just the leaders of the team, Florida also welcomes a solid freshman class this year. Freshmen Chloi Clark, Gabrielle Gallentine, Ellie Lazzari, and Alex Magee will all look to bolster Florida’s depth and secure the team’s future.
“We definitely have a lot of depth on floor and beams for sure,” Schoenherr said. “Those are going to be super, super hard lineups to get into. We could honestly probably make two lineups for beam and not just two lineups but two solid lineups so that’s a super awesome thing for us. Same with floor.”
The Gators will kick off their all-SEC regular-season schedule on Friday, Jan. 8, when they will travel to Auburn University to take on the Tigers. Auburn finished No. 17 in the polls before the season ended last year, but rose to No. 14 in the pre-season poll for 2021. The Tigers are led by Head Coach Jeff Graba and will feature senior Drew Watson and junior Derrian Gobourne. Both Watson and Gobourne earned All-SEC honors in 2020.