Florida edges by Utah to earn program's third consecutive national title
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Make room for more hardware in the Florida gymnastics trophy case, where three definitely will not be a crowd.
The Gators needed two clutch bar routines in the last two turns of the night, and Bridget Sloan and Alex McMurtry answered with back-to-back 9.95s that were enough to surge UF past Utah 197.850 to 197.800 for the title on Saturday night before a raucous crowd at the Fort Worth Convention Center Arena. The win secures the Gators' third consecutive national title.
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A day after coach Rhonda Faehn described her team's performance in the NCAA semifinals as "good," Florida was great with its crown on the line.
UF started with the nerve-racking beam, but worked through it pretty much cleanly, then was terrific on floor and especially on vault after Bridgette Caquatto stumbled to start off, meaning all five remaining Gators had to be nearly flawless.
They were. Kennedy Baker, Sloan and McMurtry hit 9.9s and Kytra Hunter a 9.925.
After a bye in the fifth round, Florida's first four turns on bars weren't great, but Sloan and McMurtry came to the rescue in pressure-packed style.
Throw in Hunter's all-around individual championship from Friday's semifinal session -- she shared the title with UCLA's Samantha Peszek with scores of 39.60 -- and the weekend was a smashing success for the Gators, with Sunday's individual competition still to come.
Make that 34 all-time national championships for Florida, with gymnastics joining men's indoor track (2010-12) to win three in a row. Since the NCAA began sanctioning its championship gymnastic championship meet in 1982, only three teams have won at least three consecutive. Utah took the first five from 1982-86. Georgia won five in a row from 2005-09.
Now the Gators can stake a claim to immortality.
After finishing second to Alabama in the 2012 national meet by .075th of a point, Florida won its inaugural crown in 2013, then shared the title with Oklahoma in 2014 and now has a triplet trophy to stand alongside the others.