Florida wins NCAA gymnastics title
Los Angeles • Shortly after they were eliminated from the NCAA gymnastics championships Friday, Utah's gymnasts spoke of all the work they needed to do in the offseason to conquer their issues on the balance beam and be a contender for the NCAA title.
As they watched Saturday's Super Six from the stands in UCLA's Pauley Pavilion, the Utes must have realized just how much work is ahead of them given the quality of the competition among the finalists.
As expected, Saturday's competition was one of the closest battles the Super Six has seen, with UCLA, Alabama, Florida and Oklahoma all having moments in which they looked like they were going to win the title.
In the end, it was Florida that came from behind to become the first team other than Georgia, Alabama or UCLA to claim the trophy.
The Gators finished with a 197.575, followed by Oklahoma (197.375), Alabama (197.35), UCLA (197.1), LSU (197.05) and Georgia (196.675).
"It has been tough the last few years because there has been a lot of scrutiny in the media why it hasn't happened, why we haven't won," Florida coach Rhonda Faehn said. "Everyone thought we would be the next team, and we thought we would be. This year we shut down everything, shut down Twitter and all the social media and just focus on what our goal is and quiet the outside."
There was nothing quiet about how the title was won.
The meet came down to the final rotation, as Alabama led with a 148.125, Florida had a 148.1 and Oklahoma had a 147.975.
UCLA had a chance to win, but eliminated itself in its last rotation, scoring just 49.1 on the vault.
Most of the pressure was on two-time defending champion Alabama, with the Tide finishing on the beam while Florida was on the bars and Oklahoma was on the floor.
Alabama succumbed to the pressure with one fall and a major break, leaving the Tide with just 49.225. Oklahoma had solid scores on the floor but just couldn't make up for lost ground, while Florida closed out a near-miraculous comeback by posting a 49.475 on the bars with the last three routines scoring 9.9 or higher.
Earlier in the evening Florida appeared to be the first of the favorites to eliminate itself when it opened on the balance beam with a fall and scored just 48.875.
Down but not out, Florida started its rally with a 49.725 on the floor. The Gators' rotation opened with a fall, but the last five gymnasts all scored 9.9 or higher to get back in the game.
The Gators carried the momentum to the vault, where they posted a 49.5, setting up the final-rotation drama.
"We had a never-give-up attitude, and we fought this whole competition," Florida's Bridget Sloan said. "Even with the mistakes, if you fight to the end you can still have a great outcome, and that is exactly what happened."
O Florida wins its first NCAA gymnastics title with a score of 197.575.
• Two-time defending champion Alabama ends up third (197.35)
• Host UCLA eliminates itself in the last rotation, scoring just 49.1 on the vault.