DULUTH, Ga. – A meet-record team score gives Florida gymnastics a sweep of 2023 Southeastern Conference trophies Saturday.
The Gators won the SEC Championship meet in front of a sellout Gas South Arena crowd of 9,544 with a 198.425 – erasing the previous high of 198.375 set by Georgia’s 1997 team. Alabama was second (197.925), followed by LSU (197.80), Kentucky (197.675), Auburn (197.10), Missouri (197.00), Arkansas (196.825) and Georgia (196.60).
A Gator won at least a share of each of the meet’s five individual event titles. Gator Super Senior Trinity Thomas defended her all-around title (39.80) and used the only 10.0s of the meet to win uneven bars and floor exercise. Leanne Wong equaled her near-perfect winning mark from the 2022 SEC meet to successfully defend her balance beam title. Fellow sophomore Sloane Blakely shared the vault title at 9.95.
Florida trailed Kentucky by 0.025 after the opening rotation, but used the evening’s highest team totals on the next three events to move into first for the remainder of the competition.
The Gators were led by a pair of sophomores on the team’s opening event. Sloane Blakely’s head bobbed side to side after sticking her landing to deliver the message to her celebrating teammates that her vault was a good one. Her 9.95 was among a four-way tie for the SEC vault title. Leanne Wong also turned in a 9.90 to tie for seventh.
Thomas’ 10.0 win on uneven bars led a Gator lineup that saw all six post a mark of 9.9 or better. Wong and Victoria Nguyen turned in marks of 9.95 to be among a four-way tie for second overall. Blakely, Kayla DiCello and Riley McCusker all posted 9.90s to share eighth. Florida’s bars total of 49.70 equals the meet record set by Georgia in 2014.
Florida held a slight 0.15 lead at the meet’s midpoint.
For the second consecutive year, Leanne Wong used a near-perfect 9.975 to win balance beam. DiCello shared second overall with three others at 9.95. Marks of 9.9 or better went toward Florida’s balance beam total of 49.675, which is just off the meet record of 49.70 set by the Gators in 2022.
A perfect 10.0 gave Thomas her second consecutive SEC floor exercise title. DiCello matched her collegiate-best of 9.95 to share second with three others at 9.95.
Florida’s three all-arounders finished among the meet’s top six. Thomas used a 39.80 to take her second consecutive all-around win. Wong shared fourth (39.625) and DiCello was the top freshman all-arounder, taking sixth at 39.60.
GATOR PERFORMANCE NOTES:
* Gators are 12-time SEC Championship meet winners: 1982, ’83, ’84, ’85, ’89, ’07, ’10, ’12, ’13, ’16, ’22, ‘23
* Florida is the only program with at least one individual event title in each of the last 12 SEC Championship meets. Fourteen Gators collected 35 event titles since the 2011 SEC Championship meet.
* Only two Gators won three individual titles in a single SEC meet – Melissa Miller (1988) and Thomas (2022 & 2023)
* Trinity Thomas & Kentucky Jenny Hansen (1994) are only gymnast with two 10.0s in a single SEC Championship
* Trinity Thomas is seventh in meet history – and the fourth Gator – to win consecutive SEC all-around titles:
* Lynn McDonnell, UF 1981 & 1982
* Melissa Miller, UF 1988 & 1989
* Kim Arnold, UGA 1997 & 1998
* Jeana Rice, ALA 2003 & 2004
* Bridget Sloan, UF 2013 & 2014
* Sarah Finnegan, LSU 2018, 2019
* Trinity Thomas is one of three in the SEC Championships’ 42-year history with a perfect mark on uneven bars. Gator Great Bridget Sloan was the first in 2015 and Auburn’s Sunisa Lee was the second in 2022.
* It was a great vaulting week for sophomore Sloane Blakely. She set her collegiate-best of 9.975 Sunday at Florida’s regular-season finale at the Texas Woman’s University quad. Tonight’s 9.95 equals the second-highest vault of her collegiate career.
* Of the 16 Gators to claim a SEC balance beam title, Leanne Wong is one of three to win consecutive titles (Lynn McDonnell – 1981 & 1982; Alyssa Baumann – 2018, 2019, 2021). She is one of seven in meet history to repeat as beam champ.
* A Gator has won all-around in each of UF’s 11 meets this season. Thomas and Wong have five wins each and DiCello has one.
* The SEC began awarding a SEC regular-season title in 2017. The 2023 Gators are the fourth team to sweep both the regular-season and championship meet title in the same season (joining LSU in 2017 & 2018; Florida in 2022).
* Florida’s winning margin of 0.500 is the highest since Georgia’s 0.700 win in 1999.
* The Gators’ season-best 198.425 equals the third-highest total in program’s 51-season history. It shares the nation’s No. 4 total of the 2023 season.
* This is Florida’s second SEC Championship win in the six times the meet appeared in Duluth, Ga. The first was in 2012.
* Collegiate bests tonight:
* Kayla DiCello: floor (9.95)
* Victoria Nguyen: 9.95 (bars)
* Trinity Thomas: 10.0 (bars), 10.0 (floor)
COACH ROWLAND SAID:
“The team’s going to take away a lot of memories from tonight. First and foremost from today, we had great normmentum. That’s the Gator-created word that was our word for the week. It means the act of being normal and creating momentum at the same time. They did a fantastic job. And I think that’s just going to carry them through the postseason.
“The level of competition tonight was insane. Today, all day from top to bottom on all four events. Really, the SEC just continues to prove what a strong force we are. Just really proud to be part of the SEC” – Florida Head Coach Jenny Rowland
SEASON SLAM FOR THOMAS:
With her perfect mark on uneven bars, Trinity Thomas finished her second Season Slam of her career.
In 2022, Thomas recorded her first Season Slam with a 10.0 on uneven bars in NCAA Regional Second Round action. The 10.0 tonight was her fifth of her career on the event.
The floor exercise 10.0 was the 27th of her career. She now shares third all-time with Georgia’s Hope Spivey and is one behind the collegiate leaders of Kentucky’s Jenny Hansen and UCLA’s Jamie Dantzscher.
NCAA Regional fields are announced Monday, March 20 at noon ET on NCAA.com.
2023 Regional Sites
March 29, 30 & April 1
Los Angeles, Calif. (UCLA)
Norman, Okla. (Oklahoma)
March 30, 31 & April 2
Denver, Colo. (Denver)
Pittsburgh, Pa. (Pittsburgh)
No. 3 Florida at Southeastern Conference Championships
Final Team Totals
March 18, 2023 ● Gas South Arena (9,544 – sellout)