In a meet that fans circled on their calendars the moment the schedule was announced, the number one ranked Florida gymnasts travel to Baton Rouge, Louisiana to take on the number two LSU Tigers on Friday. Florida looks to keep their perfect season alive, after starting the season 4-0.
Bye Week Preparations
After sending shockwaves through the nation with the team’s 197.850 performance against Missouri, the Gators had a rare mid-season bye week before LSU. Head Coach Jenny Rowland took full advantage of the time, working on details that could help Florida earn their first “10” of the season.
“This team has done a great job of supporting and lifting and encouraging everybody, just really working on those details,” Rowland said. “Everybody, I would say, individually has something a little bit different, but continuing to do what we do in the gym and to know that this team is prepared and ready to be out on the competition floor and just do what they love doing.”
While the team found time to train their movements, they also made sure to attend to their conditioning. Through a long, tiring regular season, a bye week can help provide rest to the gymnasts, and that rest can help them down the line.
“We backed off a little bit on some of the higher impact events, so we didn’t do as much vaulting, hard landings, or as much hard tumbling on the floor,” junior Savannah Schoenherr said. “I think that was super beneficial for us. I think that it was really good for us just to rest mentally and physically, and get a little bit of extra treatment.”
“There is no down week in the SEC in gymnastics.”- Head Coach Jenny Rowland
Friends with the Tigers
Although the Gators and Tigers will be rivals in Baton Rouge on Friday, many Florida gymnasts are actually friends with gymnasts from LSU. Many gymnasts get to know each other through junior meets as they grow up, and those relationships are maintained– regardless of what school they attend.
“It’s always significant for the Gators,” Rowland said. “There are so many athletes that know each other on the opposing teams, and they’re such close friends. Then, you get out on the competition floor, and it’s all out; it’s go–time. Both teams always rise to a new level, and I’m really looking forward to a great competition out on the floor.”
For Florida, Rowland and the coaching staff have preached consistency all year. Now, the undefeated Gators will put that consistency to the test in their biggest meet of the regular season.
One Gator summed things up.
“Before every meet and even when we’re at the meet, Jenny reiterates to us a lot that we’re not competing against the other team tonight; we’re competing against the Gators. We’re always just competing against ourselves and working to become better individually each meet, each step of the process.”
Preparing for Baton Rouge
LSU owns its own special place on the Gator schedule; it is their biggest meet of the year, every single year. The meet provides a chance for the team to measure themselves against a team that is near equal to them.
“Really, our goal into LSU is unlike any other weekend,” Rowland said. “What can we do better, what can we learn, what did we learn from the first four meets this year, and how can we make it better? It’s very easy to motivate a team when they know that they’re competing against an SEC team.”
As the team heads to Louisiana, they are well aware of the potentially hostile crowd that will await them. The teams are rivals, and rival fanbases are not always welcoming. Despite this, the gymnasts are excited to show the country why they are the top-ranked team in the land.
“I like when we’re at another SEC school, and sometimes you get some boo’s, and it fires you up and you want to just show it off even more,” senior Alyssa Baumann said. “It’s really fun doing it at home, of course, when you have the crowd Gator-chomping with you, but I think when you like hit a good floor routine at Alabama, LSU, Georgia, it just it feels so good.”
Where to Watch
The meet between the Gators and the Tigers will air on the SEC Network. The meet is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m on Friday.