Tonight’s first SEC matchup features the Gators and the Wildcats, two teams most wouldn’t consider equals yet are tied in the national rankings. Florida enters as the clear favorite, despite the current standings, expecting strong showings from the likes of Kennedy Baker, Alicia Boren and Alex McMurtry. Keep an eye out for Rachel Slocum as well—who’s had some trouble with her usually-stellar handspring pike half vault in the first two meets—to see if she can bounce back and return to form. The Gators also have some question marks on beam and floor with their freshmen. Who will compete and who will sit out? Florida was blessed by the depth fairy this year, especially with the early arrival of Jazmyn Foberg and Nicole Webb. Competition for lineup slots is fierce in Gainesville, so we may see yet another permutation of their many options in Lexington this week.
Kentucky will look to put up another strong score like the two that helped it get to No. 5. Mollie Korth is the star performer, capable of 9.9s on essentially every event and scoring a huge 9.975 on her Y1.5 vault last week. She won’t be alone though—former individual national qualifiers Sidney Dukes and Alex Hyland should both expect to have high-caliber performances. Freshman Ella Warren graduated high school early to join her new team just a few short weeks ago, and her bars and floor routines have already become standouts. The Cats are at home this week, so expect to see some big scores. It’s unlikely Kentucky will be an upset, but that doesn’t mean it won’t try.
6:54pm: Everyone ready for a great meet tonight? T-minus five minutes!
7:01pm: Hyland, VT: FTY, decent dynamics, makes like she sticks but has too much momentum and steps out of it
7:02pm: Baker, UB: Ray, lovely. Terrible angle for handstands, ugh. Bail looks fine? Double front STUCK, good for her!
7:03pm: Coca, VT: FTY, stutter step back. Little pike on the landing.
Boren, UB: Tkachev, nice. Bail looks dead on from here. Final handstand shown against the graphic is slightly short, but sticks the dismount.
7:05pm: Dukes, VT: Yhalf, biiiiig bounce forward.
7:06pm: Bars judges are taking forever for some reason? Unknown why.
Foberg, UB: Lovely first handstand, Maloney to Gienger, very nice. Little leg sep in the release as usual. Full in dismount, bounce back.
7:07pm: Davis, VT: FTY, landing looked fine but I missed it.
Gowey, UB: Big Ray as usual, lovely pak. DLO dismount stuck! Final handstand shown on the graphic and she is SO in that green zone.
7:10pm: Rosa, VT: FTY, wow! Way too much power and she bounds back.
Hundley, UB: Maloney to pak, legs glued together. Van Leeuwen, little leg sep. Full in, little stutter step.
7:12pm: Korth, VT: Y1.5, clean twisting form in the air, tiny bounce forward on the landing.
McMurtry, UB: HUGE Ray from her, bail solid. Full in, like a dart into the mat. One of her really good ones.
Kentucky is….. ahead after one rotation? McMurtry got a 9.775. I am seriously confused. The Cats lead 49.1 to the Gators’ 48.95. With all the sticks in that rotation and pretty normal routines for these girls, that should not be the case. I would imagine Jenny is pretty upset about the scoring at this point.
Here we go, rotation 2!
7:20pm: Skaggs, VT: big floaty FTY, big hop back. You can tell she’s training the 1.5, I wonder when Jenny will let her compete it?
Carlisle, UB: short first handstand. Jaeger gets good air, maybe a little loose in the arms on the catch. Big dismount and I think stuck? Missed the landing.
7:22pm: Alexander, VT: HUGE air and distance on her FTY, looked stuck but Alicia thinks there was a slide?
Warren, UB: Gorgeous dynamic Jaeger, nice bail. Big air on the dismount, maybe a little shuffle back?
7:24pm: Boren, VT: Big Y1.5, little knee bend in the air. Little hop in place on the landing.
Rechenmacher, UB: short on opening handstand, misses her hands on the Jaeger and falls. Looked like an awkward landing on her knees, hope she’s okay. Remounting, good. Bail is a little floppy but flops into place in the handstand. Stalder to double tuck, little step on the landing there.
7:26pm: Baker, VT: Y1.5, overcooks it a little bit and hops pretty far forward. You can see her frustration on her face, especially when she went to high five Jenny. Womp.
7:28pm: Coca, UB: good first handstand, Jaeger looked a little close maybe. Bail was good, a little short on final handstand. Full in, tries to stick but a delayed bounce back.
7:29pm: Slocum, VT: okay moment of truth. Hey! Hits the handspring pike half really nicely, small hop back.
7:30pm: Kwan, UB: Short on opening handstand, and falls in the same place as Rechenmacher, bar just slipped right through her fingertips. Gets back up and reattempts, hits Jaeger directly to overshoot, maybe grazed her foot on the floor? Lost momentum somehow anyway. Full pirouette was late, shuffle back for the landing.
7:32pm: McMurtry, VT: her same big FTY as last week, little bounce in place. Won’t beat Slocum’s big 9.925 but it’ll be a good one.
7:33pm: Big wait for Kwan’s scores on this one, judges are conferencing.
Korth, UB: Great first handstand, big piked Jaeger, maybe a little more conservative than she usually is. Bail is good. FTDLO dismount, little bounce in place similar to McMurtry.
Okay, well at least scores being low on bars are consistent – Kentucky didn’t go over 9.8 even on their good routines. Florida now leads 98.325 to 97.25 after two rotations. Korth and Slocum tie for the vault title with a 9.925 and Gowey takes bars with a mere 9.825.
Okay, here we go! Rotation 3!
7:43pm: Stuart, BB: Ooh fun mount! Switch leap to ring stag, nice. Bhs loso, little lean to the side but keeps it small. Nice needle hold. Cat leap to side aerial to back tucked full, maybe stuck?
7:45pm: Slocum, FX: Interesting choice to have her lead tonight, I wonder how this decision was made. Whip back through to double pike, good control on the landing. Nice split positions on her dance elements. I love Mambo No. 5 on her, this is so fun. Front full front pike second pass, good. Rudi to finish, very nice. Solid lead off for the Gators! Maybe this is a good strategy after all.
7:47pm: Korth, BB: Omg she uses John Mayer’s version of Free Fallin for her beam music, I love this cover. One arm bhs to loso for her series, steady. Switch to back tuck, dead on! Roundoff double full, stuck! That was a really aggressive, solid routine, love that.
7:48pm: Hundley, FX: Whip to double tuck, almost goes out but stayed in I’m pretty sure. I love this disco vibe she has going on! she’s having so much fun. Good combo pass for second pass. Little short on final double pike but covers well.
7:50pm: Poland, BB: Ice Ice Baby for her beam music and blue lipstick? Officially in love. Bhs bhs loso triple series, nice! One-arm front handspring, that’s fun. Switch leap to ring stag, looked a little unsure in the connection but not enough hesitation to take it from her, I don’t think. Gainer pike off the end, stuck!
7:52pm: Foberg, FX: Opens with the full in, not as much height as I’m used to from her. Front full front pike for her second pass. These UF girls are really playing to the camera, I’m kinda loving this. They’re doing their best to really perform these even though the crowd isn’t on their side. Double tuck right to the line to finish, good.
7:54pm: Kwan, BB: Bhs loso, suuuuper floaty and straight on. Switch to ring stag, that seems to be a theme in this beam lineup. Cat leap side aerial to back tucked full, stuck. Good comeback after her rough bar set.
7:56pm: Baumann, FX: High double tuck to open, still waiting to see that double layout she’s been training. 1.5 twist to front full for her second pass. Gorgeous split positions for her dance elements, as is to be expected from the beam queen. Double pike to close, good control on the landing.
7:58pm: Dukes, BB: Bhs loso series, nice and square. Front aerial to beat jump, god. Switch to straddle quarter, nice positions. Roundoff 1.5 twist, stick! Good for her.
8:00pm: Boren, FX: I love this routine okay, y’all? Big DLO, good control on the landing if maybe a little bit crunchy? Not the best one I’ve seen her do. 1.5 twist to front lay for her second pass. Jump On It is apparently contagious, even the Kentucky girls waiting to go on beam on doing it! Huge double tuck to finish, Gator chomp to close. That’ll be a big score.
8:02pm: Hyland, BB: Switch to split, lovely positions in the air. Cat leap to front aerial to bhs loso, WOW! What a connection. Fresh Prince theme song for her beam music, and she’s singing the lyrics! Love that. Her confidence shines through in her movements too. Cat leap to side aerial back full (laid out, unlike her other teammates doing that connection), stuck!
8:04pm: Baker, FX: Original lineup graphic didn’t show her, so I’m glad to see she’s going! Pike double arabian to open, not even the biggest I’ve seen from her but good control on the landing. Takes it right to the line. Lip Gloss to Gator chomp, that dance section is so her. Double tuck for her second pass. Good split positions, 1.5 twist to front half to split jump to finish. That’ll be a solid score too.
Looks like she’s having her ankle taped in prep for beam maybe now that it’s done, hope that’s all that is.
After three rotations, Florida leads 147.6 to 146.6, a full point’s worth of lead ahead of Kentucky.
Alrighty folks! Rotation 4 time!
8:12pm: Baker, BB: Double wolf AND SHE FALLS WHAT. She must be having a weird night, man. Straddle to straddle half. Side aerial to back full. That was really strange.
Poland, FX: front tuck through to Rudi, cool combo, don’t see that very often! Front double full! Where did that E pass come from?! Good for her! This is a really dynamic performance, I’m kinda digging this. Only a two pass routine, but a good start for the Cats.
8:16pm: Skaggs, BB: Does the double wolf that Baker just fell on! Talk about mental fortitude. Switch to split, maybe a little laggy on the back leg. Bhs loso, big lean to the side with the leg up, but stays on. Cat leap to switch side, good. Side aerial to back full, stuck! Good for her staying on.
8:17pm: Warren, FX: Front double full to kick off, very nice. This kinda sounds like Pirates of the Caribbean music? That’s fun! Switch side to Popa, good split positions. Replay graphic shows she’s a little crooked though. Rudi to back layout, not a loso like most, interesting. Front full front layout for her final pass – she’s a Natalie Brown type with all this front tumbling, I can dig it.
8:20pm: Boren, BB: Gainer front toss, looking very serious but dead on. Bhs loso, straight along the line. Switch to split, big break after but stays on and doesn’t touch. Gainer loso has a bobble but covers well with her arm movements. Maybe a step on the dismount?
8:21pm: Rechenmacher, FX: Whip back and stumbles on a bhs, maybe hit her head? And didn’t do her actual tumbling element. She looks really out of it now, yikes. Finished strong with a double pike, low landing though… just not her night.
8:23pm: Gowey, BB: Switch leap to split jump, lovely. Bhs loso loso, STRAIGHT on, nailed it. Front aerial to sissone, good. She’s fighting for this one. Gainer full, maybe a little movement of one foot but ASac calls it a stick. A good reset button for this lineup, with two more routines that must hit left to go.
8:25pm: Big wait for the scores on floor after the Rechenmacher mishap. Announcer calls Hyland’s name but she still can’t go.
Hyland, FX: Mambo No. 5 for her too, okay. Big double pike to open, nice control on the landing. Good positions in her dance elements. Much more understated dance in comparison to Slocum, but this is much more natural for her. 1.5 twist to front layout for her last pass, only a two-pass routine for her as well. Still confused as to why she isn’t in the AA but oh well.
8:32pm: Baumann, BB: Bhs loso to open, maybe playing it safe not doing the Onodi. Switch to switch half, gorgeous. Front aerial to sissone. Roundoff 1.5 twist looked stuck? A good hit for them.
8:33pm: Korth, FX: Apparently skipping her E pass? Opens with a double tuck, nice and high though. Rudi loso for her second pass, pretty floaty. Double pike to close, chest a little low but pops up quick.
8:35pm: McMurtry, BB: Cat leap to front toss, fine. Bhs loso, she looked off from the beginning AND SHE FALLS WHAT. Oh my god. This just got REALLY interesting. Hits the rest but wow… this may end up being a close one.
8:37pm: Dukes, FX: Big double pike to open, good control on the landing. Front full to front lay for her second pass, good. This is some fun music, intricate guitar work and her musicality is really nice. Nice double tuck to finish, nice hit for her, but there’s no way they can win at this point. She fought for it, though.
Florida takes it 196.325 to 195.95. Opened the door there at the end but hung onto the win. Quick! Switch to Alabama at LSU, see you there!
Live blog by Caroline Medley