LIVE BLOG: No. 11 Arkansas at No. 5 Florida

This weekend brings around another Link to Pink meet in the O-Dome, this time with the Gators facing the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Gators are coming off a win at Georgia that probably doesn’t feel as good as it should, as they failed to break 197 on the road yet again. The Gators are still struggling to find their road groove on beam, seeing yet another fall from Alex McMurtry, her third on beam in as many away meets. McMurtry did, however, premiere her new floor routine to the tune of 9.925, despite mixed fan reviews. Notably missing from last week’s meet was Kennedy Baker, who scored a perfect 10.0 in her floor routine two weeks ago at home after waiting the whole meet to compete that one event. Her presence is key to Florida’s scoring potential, particularly on vault and floor, but head coach Jenny Rowland can afford to rest her at least another week if necessary. Meanwhile, Alicia Boren has quietly become the team’s top all arounder, standing at No. 8 in the nation, being rewarded for her consistency and power on every event.

Arkansas comes to Gainesville as the underdog, which is exactly the same position it’s been in most of the season. After a rough performance at the Mardi Gras Invitational on podium last week, the Gymbacks will be looking for a bigger road score to push their RQS higher, as they’re capable of challenging Kentucky for the No. 9 spot, though the 197.050 they need to guarantee it might be asking a little much. Amanda Wellick will lead the charge as she has throughout her career, backed by a strong group of underclassmen, including all arounder Jessica Yamzon and former SEC Freshman and Specialist of the Week Sophia Carter. The Gymbacks are also ranked No. 5 in the country on balance beam, so expect them to make their biggest push in the final rotation of this meet.

5:33pm: Got here extra early today to make sure I could bring you guys the most info possible before the meet starts! Check out our Instagram story @ncaagymnews for some video from warmups.

5:40pm: For those not watching Instagram, the Gators have Megan Skaggs and Kennedy Baker warming up bars in the 2 and 3 spots, so lineups might look a little different than the last few weeks.

For Arkansas, I definitely saw Sophia Carter warming up bars for Arkansas and Hailey Garner warming up vault, so their lineups may also see some shakeup tonight.

6:08pm: Came back to the liveblog to let everyone know – Wellick is dancing through floor in what looked like the anchor spot! She may finally make her return to the all around tonight!

6:23pm: Looks like Baker will be back in floor tonight as well, as she’s warmed up in the anchor spot for the Gators. Gowey is now warming up in the exo slot after her. McMurtry did dance through and warm up one triple twist, but she did not look committed to her dance. Have to wonder if she’s just being coy so she gets to do a big “reveal” here at home, or if she’s concerned about the backlash it got last week? One last interesting piece about floor – Nicole Webb did some tumbling, including a front double full! Would love to see that in exhibition at some point.

6:30pm: We also have Gator great Bridget Sloan in the house tonight, commentating for SECN. She hasn’t come to an Alumni Night since graduating in 2016, so this might be her first visit back to the O-Dome since graduating? Don’t quote me on that, but it seems probable.

Wellick confirmed in the AA! As well as McMurtry. Looks like we’ll have a Carol(e) on every event but floor tonight, too, so we’ll see how big the scores fly, ha!

6:44pm: Survivors walking into the arena now, through the mouth of the Gator, while the gymnasts talk about how special Link to Pink is to them on the JumboTron. This is super cute.

6:47pm: Florida intros now underway, featuring the swamp projected onto the floor before showing their three consecutive national title wins. Cool concept… except if you’re anywhere close to the floor, you can’t even really see it. Meet should be underway in approximately 10 minutes if anyone is wondering.

6:58pm: First touch warmup well underway! Slocum looked like she had trouble with her last run just now, while McMurtry is definitely sticking fulls. Baumann also warming up, though she’s not in the lineup. Wonder if we’ll see any exhibitions tonight, despite being on SECN? Stay tuned to find out!

7:01pm: Here we go, y’all!

Gowey, VT: FTY, lovely in the air, basically stuck! Maybe a little movement of her right foot, but wow. One of her best ever.

Yamzon, UB: A little shy of first handstand. Tkachev is nice. Bail a little floppy but goes into place. A little shy on final handstand. FTDLO stuck! Arkansas isn’t playing around tonight.

7:02pm: Foberg, VT: FTY, bounce back. More distance than Gowey though, it seemed?

Shaffer, UB: A little wait on Yamzon’s score? Odd. Here we go.

Great first handstands. Maloney flies really nicely. Bail is dead on. Her lines on bars are so nice! Giant half into double tuck, little foot movement it looked like? People were in the way.

7:05pm: Boren, VT: Y1.5, big bound forward with at least one more step after. Not her best.

Laird, UB: First handstand maybe a little shy? Ray is lovely! Nice and high. Bail is good. Final handstand definitely short. Little hop back on her DLO.

7:07pm: Baker, VT: Y1.5, looked the landing surprised her a little but she covered well, little shuffle backwards.

Wellick, UB: Lovely first handstand. Shaposh directly to bail, excellent. Nice final handstand, such a straight body line. Giant half directly to her double front, little step forward. Great routine for her.

7:09pm: Slocum, VT: Handspring pike half, super high, chest higher than usual, and a stick! Definitely showing shades more like last season there. Easily her best this year. That’ll be a big score.

Speed, UB: Really nice first handstand. Giant half to Jaeger, excellent. Gorgeous toe on to handstand, to her bail. Last handstand also super clean. Double tuck dismount, stuck!

7:11pm: McMurtry, VT: Only the FTY tonight, interesting. Maybe her back is bothering her? Little scoot back in slow mo but in real time definitely looked like a stick.

Carter, UB: Good first handstand. Jaeger not nearly as dynamic as Speed’s, but fine. Bail is definitely short of handstand, angled funny. Giant full is slow but she makes it. Ooh, double tuck SUPER close to the bar, almost clipped her feet but she pulled it around and stuck! Good for her.

7:13pm: Baumann, VT exo: FTY, better control but undercooked it too much, a little short on the landing and bounced forward. Didn’t get nearly enough height off the table.

After one rotation, the Gators lead the Gymbacks 49.525 to 49.375. Arkansas is keeping it surprisingly close so far! We’ll see how they fair on vault, which historically hasn’t been as good for them.

Currently leading the vault standings, Slocum and McMurtry both earned 9.95s, marking yet another “perfect 9.95” for McMurtry’s full. Shaffer and Speed lead bars with 9.9s.

One of the cheerleaders just led the arena in singing “Happy Birthday” to Slocum, whose actual birthday happens to be today! They did play music to go along with it… but the arena didn’t follow it and it was just kind of a tone-deaf din. Oops. I couldn’t even see Slocum during it either, which is odd because she doesn’t compete bars.

7:21pm: Rotation 2 time!

Yamzon, VT: FTY, slide back. Good distance, less height than usual maybe?

Boren, UB: A little short on first handstand. Tkachev is good. Bail straight on, nicely done. Final handstand short as well. DLO a little close to the bar, but stuck!

7:23pm: Garner, VT: FTY, piked down and short, almost has to step off the mat. They’ll want to drop that one.

Baker, UB: Great first handstand, Ray is HUGE! Another good handstand, bail felt a little short? Final handstand is good, Blind change straight to her double front, little bounce forward on the landing. A great return for her after being out with the flu last week.

7:24pm: Shaffer, VT: Yhalf, legs a little bit split at the end but she sticks it! One of her best.

Skaggs, UB: Lovely first handstand, and a second after her toe on. Ray to pak are both huge and dynamic, she absolutely flies. Great last handstand. DLO dismount, maybe a little foot shuffle? Nope, slow mo says she stuck!

7:26pm: Wellick, VT: Big FTY, little bounce back. Lots of power there.

Hundley, UB: Good first handstand. The Maloney to pak is super floaty, good handstands following the pak. Van Leeuwen has a little leg sep. Little steps forward on her full in.

7:28pm: Speed, VT: Nice air, though not a lot of distance on her FTY. Might have been a stick? Looked like it from here but I won’t get a slow-mo replay of the away team to confirm.

Gowey, UB: Nice first handstand, Ray is high but a little close caught. Pak is lovely as usual. Toe half is right on top of the low bar, though her final handstand is a little shy. DLO and it’s a stick! Setting up McMurtry with that momentum.

7:30pm: Carter, VT: FTY, a little bit short but better than Garner.

McMurtry, UB: Great first handstand. Ray is HUGE, bail dead on. Almost overpowers her toe shoot, good cover. Full in, does a salute as she steps out of her attempted stick. We’ll see if the judges give it to her or not.

7:33pm: After two, Florida leads Arkansas 99.05 to 98.5. Florida on 198 pace again halfway through, Arkansas on a good 197 pace at least.

Gowey and McMurtry tie for the bars title at 9.925, while Slocum and McMurtry maintain their vault dominance at 9.95.

7:39pm: Time for rotation 3!

Hundley, BB: Love that she uses Moana for her beam music! Front aerial to sissone, good. Bhs loso, little bobble but covers well. Cat leap to switch side, solid. Lots of prep for her full turn but she doesn’t bobble at all, that’s good. Roundoff 1.5 twist, stick! Definitely a good one for Meals.

7:41pm: Bargiacchi, FX: The team has choreography at the beginning of her routine too, that’s cute. That wolf full is always a little scary to me. Rudi to split jump to open, nice control. Maybe a little shy of her second straddle position in that Popa? 1.5 twist to front lay, really close to sitting it but somehow finds her feet. Backspin to close, that’s fun. Not the strong leadoff Arkansas would have wanted.

7:43pm: Skaggs, BB: Double wolf turn to open, barely a bobble in sight. Switch to split, lovely positions in the air. Bhs loso, a little bit off to the side but covers well. Cat leap to side aerial to back full, looked stuck to me! Super solid, especially after being out of the lineup for a few weeks.

7:45pm: Yamzon, FX: Opens with a double tuck, good control. Double pike for her second pass, nice height on that. Front lay to front full for her final pass, solid. And then trips coming off the floor while high-fiving her teammates, what a goof. Speed crowns her with the stick chain!

7:47pm: Boren, BB: Gainer front toss, super solid. Bhs loso, goes a little slow but her patience pays off, she’s dead on. Positions in the air on her leaps are nice. Gainer loso shows a little bobble but she covers. Cartwheel to gainer layout full, little slide back on the landing.

7:49pm: Burton, FX: Solid double pike to open. Goes right back with a double tuck for her second pass, chest a little bit low there. Split positions a little bit short on both dance elements. Front full to front lay for final pass, nicely done. Nothing big, but another solid score in the books for them.

7:50pm: Gowey, BB: Switch to split, lovely. Bhs loso loso, perfectly straight, flicks her wrists back with such an air of finality. Front aerial to sissone, good. Gainer full, stuck! She is super on tonight, good for her.

7:52pm: Shaffer, FX: Double pike to open, nice height. Double tuck for her second pass, good control there. This choreography really shows off her flexibility – as did those leap positions! Good for her. 1.5 twist to front lay for final pass, really gets good rise on the second element as she should. She’s having a great night as well!

7:54pm: Baumann, BB: Kicks it off with the Onodi, gorgeous. Doesn’t connect it tonight, but her bhs loso is gorgeous as usual too. Switch to split, nice. Front aerial, no connection out of that tonight. Full turn is so smooth, Johnny Weir would call it butter. Roundoff 1.5 twist to dismount, little scoot back to salute.

7:56pm: Carter, FX: I love this routine, you guys. She really brings the flavor and sass. Double tuck, little step forward out of it. Double pike, much better than warmups, good control. Maybe a little short on her first split position but I’m really picky about those honestly. 1.5 twist to front lay to close, nice rise in the second element. A much-needed bigger hit for them!

7:58pm: McMurtry, BB: Front toss is solid. Bhs loso, super straight. Switch to shushunova to back hip circle, not as dynamic maybe as usual? Feels like she’s being careful. Roundoff double full, little shuffle back.

8:00pm: Wellick, FX: So hype for this! Rudi to open, pretty clean twisting form in there. I think missed her leap series in the middle? She was behind somebody from where I’m sitting but it looked like she didn’t have a distinct position in the air at the very least. Front full front lay for her second pass. I’m not super thrilled with her choreography in here, and only a two-pass routine, but it’s a good first routine back for her. I can tell she’s super thrilled to be back on all four.

8:01pm: Webb, BB exo: Probably a good idea to test her some more after needing her last week at Georgia. Super solid on the bhs loso. Switch to split, maybe a little short? Front aerial, little bobble but cover nicely. Beat jump to sheep jump, leg separation there but keeps it from being totally ugly. Roundoff double full, bounce back. Glad to see her getting some competition time in.

8:05pm: After three, Florida still leads Arkansas 148.625 to 147.725. Baumann and McMurtry currently lead beam at 9.95, while Shaffer leads floor at a very respectable 9.925. That might actually put her in the mix for the floor title, provided things don’t get too crazy… but it is Florida floor.

Both teams on track for season-highs here if they can keep it together, which considering which events they’re each on, they should be fine.

8:10pm: Rotation four!

Yamzon, BB: Cat leap to switch side, secure. Bhs bhs loso, beautifully straight. Finishes her full turn on releve – obsessed. Front toss is solid. Gainer full, little hop salute.

8:12pm: Hundley, FX: This routine is so cute on her, I love it. Whip to double tuck to open, good. Double pike for her second pass, good on the landing. 1.5 twist to front lay and the team goes nuts! Judging by that reaction, I’d say that’s one of the best she’s done all season.

8:14pm: Garner, BB: Little wobble in her opening elements but not too big. Side aerial loso, love that series! Side aerial to back full, little shuffle.

8:16pm: Baumann, FX: DLO today! Definitely OOB, couldn’t see if it was one foot or both. 1.5 twist to front full second pass, nice. Big wink to the team, she brings the sass with this one. Double pike to close, nice and high with good control. If not for the OOB, that would be a good score. Crowd still goes nuts, apparently we have the twelfth-biggest crowd in Florida history in here tonight.

8:18pm: Wellick, BB: Side somi, good. Bhs loso, big check with her leg up but stays on. Front aerial, secure. Gainer front full off the end, step salute. Not her greatest, but getting back on all four is an accomplishment in itself tonight.

8:20pm: McMurtry, FX: Here we go! Triple twist, little bit short, that can’t have felt good. Second pass is front lay to a front half, legs kinda bent, she bailed out. Double tuck to close was high but definitely an ankle cruncher. Not her best. Hopefully she didn’t hurt herself.

8:22pm: Carter, BB: Series was gorgeous, straight on. Sheep jump a little funky but better than Webb’s. Front aerial to sissone, good. Full turn from standing in passe, love that. Completely missed the dismount because Jenny moved in front of me, but from the Jumbotron she clearly stuck it! Nice!

8:23pm: Slocum, FX: DLO for her tonight too! Crowd goes crazy. Good positions in the air for her dance elements. Front full front pike for her second element, does a little point at Jenny as she finishes as if to say ha, I got this. Rudi to stag to close, good landing control there. That will be a huge score for her.

8:25pm: Shaffer, BB: Switch leap, big bobble. Connects split to straddle quarter, good. Bhs loso another big bobble but stays on. Cat leap to side aerial is gorgeous. Bhs, tucked back 1.5, little bounce.

8:27pm: Boren, FX: DLO to open, gorgeous. 1.5 twist to front lay for second pass, keeps her rebound controlled. Great positions in the air on her dance elements. Double tuck to close, great control there. When are they gonna give her a 10.0? That’s what I want to know. She has been so consistent for this team this year, doing all around in every meet and hitting her sets every week. Wow, Gator fans booing for a 9.95. Yikes.

8:30pm: Burton, BB: Front aerial, bobble but saves it. Bhs loso, perfectly on. Split to sheep, sheep looked nice actually but she’s facing me so hard to tell. Gainer layout full, stuck! They needed that after Shaffer’s wobbleburger of a routine.

8:32pm: Baker, FX: The position on that opening double arabian is insane, it’s basically laid out at this point, I love it. Double tuck for her second pass and she’s down! Oh my god! She’s clutching her ankle in pain, crying. That was terrifying to see in person. Hopefully it’s not as serious as it looks, that would end her senior season way too short. Poor girl.

Final score looks like 197.725 to Arkansas’s 196.875. Both teams robbed of their season-best scores by the final rotation. The energy in here just dramatically dropped. What an ending to the meet.

Event winners tonight are Slocum and McMurtry on floor with 9.95, McMurtry and Gowey on bars with 9.925 and beam for 9.95, and Boren on floor for 9.95. Check our Twitter for updates on Kennedy Baker’s condition if I can get any at press.

Live blog by Caroline Medley

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