Ever since the NCAA announced that the 2021 season would not count against winter-sport athletes’ years of eligibility, the question of if the three Gator Gymnastics seniors would return has loomed large. When senior Megan Skaggs stuck the landing on her uneven bars routine at the National Final, the final event of the day for the second-team All-American in the all-around, fans wondered if they would see the gymnast from Marietta, Georgia, again on the competition floor.
After an emotional embrace with Head Coach Jenny Rowland, Skaggs followed her team to the locker room after a disappointing fourth-place finish at the National Final, and remained silent on the topic to the public- and then she made her announcement. On April 23, Skaggs declared through her various social media platforms that she would be taking the extra year of eligibility and returning for her fifth year at Florida.
Deciding to Return
“I really want to leave the sport with no regrets.”-Senior Megan Skaggs
While the public and Gator Nation remained in the dark on Skaggs’ plans until her announcement, the gymnast and her teammates had known for a while. As the postseason began and the season drew to a close, Skaggs became more and more confident in her decision to stay, something that the team was well aware of.
“I know it was a big announcement for social media, but most of them were aware that I was considering and toward the end of the season that I was pretty confident that I was going to stay,” Skaggs said. “Everybody is thankfully super happy to have me around another year and I’m super, super grateful to stick around.”
While fans might see the fourth-place finish at Nationals and think that the reason she is returning is to complete the mission of winning a championship, Skaggs does not agree. She was planning on staying even if the Gators did bring home a title; her love for the sport of gymnastics is what ultimately made her decide to stay.
“[Her reason to stay] wasn’t necessarily one thing,” Skaggs said. “I think the biggest thing was just loving the sport, and that’s really grown even more this year, so why not in a sense. I’m honestly so excited for the opportunity and it’s something that I truly just couldn’t pass up.”
Impact on the Team
With Skaggs’ return, competition for lineups next year will be at all-time highs. Rowland has recruited an elite freshman class for the 2022 season, so every gymnast will need to be at their peak to crack the top six on each event.
“We have crazy talented gymnasts coming in and also super awesome people, so we’re really excited,” Skaggs said. “They’re going to come in and really push us all to be better so that’s going to be great for us upperclassmen.”
From a personal perspective, Skaggs will also be looking to improve. She was unable to train in the summer of 2020 due to COVID-19; with a full summer of training ahead, Skaggs will be able to workshop new skills for the 2022 season.
“I definitely want to get into the gym and play around with different things and work on some upgrades,” Skaggs said. “I think on every event we’ve talked about trying out some things, so we’ll see. I’m really excited about it.”
Waiting on Announcement from Baumann
After Skaggs’ announcement, the only senior left to make her statement is Alyssa Baumann; Jazmyn Foberg announced on April 19 her retirement from gymnastics in an Instagram post. If Baumann, an All-American on beam and floor, returns, the Gators could be primed for another run at a national title in 2022.