LIVE BLOG: No. 9 Alabama at No. 5 Florida

In yet another banner matchup for the Gators, the Crimson Tide comes to the O-Dome this weekend with the goal of proving they’ve righted the ship. Many started to write Alabama off as the season began very shakily, as many of their supposed star freshmen came in with injuries and scores were mired down by little mistakes. Last week against Arkansas, the Tide finally hit 197, so this week they’ll be hoping to prove that wasn’t a fluke. Key to this is the return of Wynter Childers, who’s been resting on all but bars the last two weeks but was serving as the team’s only all arounder in previous meets. Another to watch is Lexi Graber, who returned to competition last week after sitting out with a bone bruise she received on a botched vault landing a few weeks ago. She’s an important part of both the vault and beam lineups, so if she’s on her game, she could pull in some big scores for the Tide.

Florida, on the other hand, will be looking to replicate its performance from its last home meet, where it defeated Oklahoma by the smallest margin possible, becoming one of the few teams this season to break 198. If it can repeat that feat, it’ll join Oklahoma as the only two teams this season to reach 198 more than once. The Gators will want to secure their beam lineup in particular this week, as they saw a fall from star Alex McMurtry and a loss of start value for freshman beam queen Alyssa Baumann. Florida cannot afford to let this happen again, especially not against an opponent like Alabama, and certainly not at home.

6:36pm: Warmups have just finished, and I have lineup dirt for you guys! Kennedy Baker is out of everything but floor, Foberg is only on vault and bars! Sounds like they’re resting some people – not sure if that’s the choice I’d make, but here we are. Chant is in vault, McLaughlin in beam, Gowey in floor. We’ll see how that turns out for the Gators.

On the other side of things, Alabama FINALLY has Kiana Winston in the all around! Also, Alonza Klopfer will be making her floor debut, and Wynter Childers is 100% sitting out, barring any last-minute changes.

6:49pm: Intros underway here! Looks like we have another packed house tonight, might be sold out but hard to tell in the dark. Tough to see Alexander on crutches and in a major cast after interviewing her just two weeks ago about trying to crack the floor lineup. Shouldn’t be long now, so stay tuned!

6:57pm: Touch warmups underway, both teams looking fine. No Baker on vault,though she did just run down the vault runway and hurdle in her warmup gear. Odd. HUGE Gienger from Graber. Saw Mahoney just doing toe circles, didn’t try her Maloney. Hopefully she’s figured that one out. Skaggs just hanging out doing handstands on the floor, ha.

7:01pm: Rotation 1, let’s go!

Chant, VT: Tsuk full, pike down and hop on the landing but best I’ve seen her do in college I think! Definitely better control than we typically see from her.

Guerra, UB: Looked like she mouthed “you got this” to herself before she went. Jaeger is excellent, not as extended maybe as some. Bail is good, if a little floppy. Goes for last handstand, overarches, tries to just swing down and recast but comes off. That’s rough, first one out of the gate. Remounts, DLO dismount is really close to the bar, but she college sticks the landing.

7:04pm: Hundley, VT: FTY, good distance, little scoot back.

Graber, UB: Great first handstand, giant full straight into Gienger, little bit of leg sep but good height. Bail is solid. Good last handstand, not as good as her first. Full in, looks like a stick from here! Though I do have two people standing directly between me and the dismount mat…

7:06pm: Foberg, VT: FTY, less distance than Hundley, and a big slide back.

Mahoney, UB: Good first handstand, if a little archy. Catches Maloney just fine, good air. Bail is dead on, very nice! Good to see her back in this. Last handstand maybe a little short. Full in is super high and stuck! Good for her.

7:07pm: Boren, VT: Y1.5, overcooks it and takes at least two big steps forward out of it. Knee bend is really evident in the slow mo too. Not her best.

Dickson, UB: Looks like there’s some confusion about Mahoney’s scores, Dana’s having a chat with the judging table. Here’s Dickson now. Great first handstand, bail is solid though maybe not precise. Next handstand not her best, toe on is nice. HUGE Tkachev, I’m obsessed with that air. Full in, small step back.

7:10pm: Slocum, VT: FHS pike half, lovely in the air but very low chest on the landing and maybe a little scoot forward?

Winston, UB: Great first handstand on the low bar. Maloney, very nice. Gorgeous pak salto as usual. Good last handstand, not super rprecise though. DLO stuck cold! Big smile immediately lights up her face.

7:12pm: McMurtry, VT: Goes back to the DTY this week, good control on the landing but even I saw a little movement from here. Crowd starts chanting the 10 but I don’t think they’ll get it this week, and they kinda seem like they know that. Yup, she goes 9.975. And Carol isn’t even on vault tonight!

Brannan, UB: Lovely handstands, Jaeger is gorgeous. Bail good. Perfect last handstand, but slide back on the DLO. They’ll be able to drop Guerra’s 9.25 now.

Florida leads Alabama by the tiniest of margins after one rotation: 49.325 to 49.3. Looks like this is going to be another tight one!

Looks like a score change for Shea Mahoney’s bars took the first rotation for the Tide, with Florida scoring a 49.325 and Alabama a 49.35.

Can confirm, dear gymternet, there was definitely a slide. Visible movement in her leg even from across the arena.

7:21pm: Rotation 2 time!

Mahoney, VT: FTY, a little slide on the landing it looked like, and of course I won’t get replays for these because they’re the visiting team.

Boren, UB: Nice first handstand! Good air on her Tkachev. Good handstands following, bail is dead on. She is on her game tonight, wow! A little bit shy of her last handstand. DLO dismount, stick! People behind me are calling for 10s but let’s be real, people.

7:23pm: Armbrecht, VT: Just the full this week, bounce in place. At least now I have a clear line of sight to their feet instead of people in the way like during the first rotation.

Foberg, UB: Little shy on first handstand, toe on to handstand is better. Pak is nice, Maloney to Gienger is clean, though not a lot of amplitude. Full in dismount with a stick! The Gators are really going for those landings tonight.

7:25pm: Graber, VT: Sticks with the full as well, one foot back to steady herself.

Skaggs, UB: HUGE Tkachev to pak combination, wow. Maybe a little leg sep on the pak? Good last handstand, maybe a little shy? DLO, tries to college stick it but I think the judges will notice the step salute.

7:27pm: Winston, VT: Big FTY, great air. Slide back. Not her best control but a good first outing on vault for her.

Hundley, UB: A little shy on the first handstand. Maloney to pak is gorgeous. Little bit of a leg sep on the Van Leeuwen. Final handstand is better but not perfect. Full in, crowd is reacting like she stuck but I thought I saw leg movement? Ahh no, replay shows it was just the impact reverberating through her muscles that I saw.

7:28pm: Desch, VT: FTY, tiniest scoot back if at all. Not the most dynamic but a good one.

Gowey, UB: Gorgeous Ray. Solid handstands throughout. Pak is lovely. Got a little archy on final handstand but quickly corrected. DLO with a scoot back on the landing.

7:30pm: Guerrero, VT: Y1.5, slight knee bend throughout but keeps her legs glued together. Maybe a little scoot forward? Might’ve been stuck. Really hard to tell from here.

McMurtry, UB: Nice first handstand. Ray, gets great air. Bail, holds it forever, I think she was in danger of it going over but keeps it under control. Last handstand is a little shy, didn’t want to repeat the bail thing. Sticks her full in! That’ll be another big score. Yup, 9.95.

After two, Florida takes the lead with a 98.825 to Alabama’s 98.6. The Gators are building a lead, but beam will be the tell-tale event. Florida had trouble on this event their last two road meets, so maybe being at home will put them at ease. But with McLaughlin in the lineup for the first time this season, there is definitely possibility of error. Alabama will want to capitalize on their landings as much as possible to stay in the hunt.

7:39pm: Rotation 3 time!

Hundley, BB: She’s using A Whole New World for her beam music. Love. Front aerial, little bobble into the split jump, might lose that connection. Bhs loso, snaps her arms down to stay steady. Cat leap to switch side, nice, good straddle position. Roundoff 1.5 twist dismount, stick! Solid leadoff.

7:41pm: Guerra, FX: Love her musicality and drama in this first segment of choreo. Opens with a double tuck, great height, good control on the landing. Nice straddle positions in her dance elements. 1.5 twist to front lay, dances right out of it. Love her corner choreo, doing something other than just standing there. Closes with double pike, close to the line but stays in, based on the team’s reaction. One of the best I’ve seen her do this year.

7:43pm: McLaughlin, BB: Front aerial, hesitation into the bhs. Doubt they’ll take it from her but they could. And a bobble out of the bhs. Split to ring stag, another big bobble, leg out to the side. SIde aerial to back full, little step forward. Not her greatest argument for staying in the lineup while they rest Jazzy.

7:45pm: Desch, FX: Double arabian to open… and sits it. Yikes. 1.5 twist to front half to split jump, good control there. Good split positions. Double tuck to close, good control there. Unfortunate fall, pressure now on newcomer Alonza Klopfer, who will go next. Guerrero giving her a pep talk as they walk to the corner she’ll start from.

7:46pm: Boren, BB: Looks like a judges’ conference before Boren goes, but they’re being optimistic and playing her beam music already. Alright, here she goes. Gainer front toss, dead on. Bhs loso, solid. Switch to straddle is good. Cat leap to gainer loso, super steady. This is what they needed after those last two routines. Cartwheel to gainer full, stick! A good reset button for the Gators, especially after getting McLaughlin’s score at a 9.65.

7:49pm: Klopfer, FX: Double tuck to open, good on the landing. Maybe a little short on the second split but super precise landing on those dance elements. Still learning just how to perform this routine, but her basics are good. Double pike, chest low, but good control. 1.5 twist to front lay, a little whippy in the layout, but puts it to her feet. Team is going nuts for her, they’re so proud. Good for her!

7:51pm: Gowey, BB: Front aerial to split, good. Bhs loso loso, big break at the hips but stays on. Not a good beam night for Florida. Leaps are good. Gainer layout, stick! The Gators have absolutely opened the door, giving away all these balance checks.

7:53pm: Armbrecht, FX: Opens with double pike, playing it safe this week. Not a bad idea considering how Florida is going. 1.5 twist to front layout, good. Rudi to stag to finish. Love the drama in her choreography, she has such elegant lines.

7:54pm: Baumann, BB: Onodi, separates it this week, not a bad choice. Bhs loso, super steady. Switch to split, lovely split positions. Switch half to beat, solid there too. Front aerial to split jump, so much confidence there. Roundoff 1.5 twist, maybe a little bounce forward, but it’ll be a good score, which Florida needs.

7:57pm: Winston, FX: Sticks with the double pike opener, I’m just waiting for her to bust that DLO back out man. Front lay to front full, full is really low for her and she stutters the landing a little bit. Switch half is a little short of 180, that’s very out of character for her. Stuck double tuck to close, doesn’t even lunge out of it. Solid score for her.

7:58pm: McMurtry, BB: Colder Weather this week, I love her obsession with ZBB. Cat leap to front toss, solid. Bhs loso, did it with her back facing me and I SAW her heel slip but she whipped her arms down and kept from bobbling. Cat leap to shush to back hip circle, gorgeous. Roundoff double full, a little off to the side and a little hop in place. Florida will take that right now.

8:00pm: Guerrero, FX: Double pike to open, solid. Her musicality in that first choreography section is SPOT on. Good straddle positions in leaps. 1.5 twist to front full, very nice. She’s still got her performance factor on tonight even without being at home. Rudi to finish, really weird in the air but lands it fine. That should be another solid score for Bama.

8:03pm: Looks like the Gators will again extend their lead over Alabama here, closing beam with a pair of 9.925s from Baumann and McMurtry. That puts Florida at 148.225 to Alabama’s 147.8. Both teams on 197 pace if they keep this up.

McMurtry warmed up a tumbling pass? We’ll see if there’s a last minute change.

8:10pm: Rotation 4, last one!

Desch, BB: Bhs loso, solid. Side somi, a little squatty and a check. Switch to split, maybe a little short on the second split. Bhs bhs 1.5 twist, step into salute. Good lead for Bama

8:11pm: Slocum, FX: Whip through to double pike to open, best I’ve seen her do this year. Solid positions on her dance elements. Front full to front pike, good control on the landing. Rudi to stag to finish, again solid control. That’ll be a big score for her, I can tell.

Also, update: Looks like no McMurtry. Baker had the heating pad on her ankle a little while ago but she looks okay. Very taped though.

8:14pm: Armbrecht, BB: Front aerial to beat, little bobble maybe but covers well. Bhs loso, definite bobble there but keeps it small. Split to beat to sheep, BIG break at the hips but stays on. Roundoff double full, stuck! Good fight on that.

8:15pm: Hundley, FX: Whip to double tuck to open, keeping it conservative on the difficulty still. Great straddle positions in the dance elements, I love this old school, disco-y choreo on her. Double pike, chest a little low but pops it right up. 1.5 twist to front lay to close, a little archy on the layout but otherwise fine.

8:17pm: Ernst, BB: okay, here we go. Her first competitive routine in the O-Dome not as a Gator. Bhs loso, super steady. Switch to sheep, better than some weeks but not as nice as Armbrecht’s. Front aerial to to split jump, steady. Roundoff double full, stuck! Great showing for her. I wonder how Jenny feels about that after their beam trouble.

8:19pm: Baumann, FX: Just the double tuck to open still, playing it safe. 1.5 twist to front full, good. Good split positions in dance elements. Jenny is literally standing right in front of me so I can’t see the diagonal Alyssa is about to come down. Boo. Double pike, great landing position and great control, saw her overcook one in warmups but that one was excellent. That should be another great one.

8:22pm: Graber, BB: Bhs layout 2ft, steady as anything. Switch to straddle 3/4 is nice. Front aerial, tries to go for the scale but doesn’t have the balance, stutters her feet but stays on! Wow. Roundoff double full, little bit helicopter legs in the air, step salute.

8:23pm: Gowey, FX: Double pike, a little bit short but keeps it under control. Almost no bounce on her dance elements, struggles with her positions a little bit, they feel a little bit crooked? 1.5 twist to front layout, good. Double tuck, again a little bit short but covers well. Florida just needed a hit out of her, and theoretically, they should be home free from here. Wait… Baker walking off to the other side of the floor toward beam… I wonder what that’s about.

8:26pm: Winston, BB: Split elements lovely. Front aerial to bhs, super steady and calm. Full turn good. So much steadiness here. Roundoff double tuck, oh no! She misses her punch and crashes the dismount. Welp, that should be the AA title for Boren, then.

8:27pm: Boren, FX: Oh, there’s Kennedy, she just moved over there to cheer on Alicia. Opens with DLO, lower than what we’ve been seeing from her but not much piking, put it to her feet fine. 1.5 twist to front lay is clean. The whole team is one the floor on the sideline doing that crawl back and shimmy pop with her, I love that. Closes with double pike, great control. That’ll be a big score, and the crowd knows it. I’m honestly still overwhelmed sometimes by the volume of this crowd when big routines go up like that.

8:29pm: Guerrero, BB: Bhs loso loso, super steady. Switch to straddle, good positions. Side aerial, dead on. Roundoff 1.5 twist, stuck cold! Grins straight into the SECN camera, ha. Team giving her 10 hands, we’ll see how big that score goes. 9.95! Very nice.

8:31pm: Baker, FX: Double arabian still slightly piked, if anyone was wondering, re: her comment on Twitter. Double tuck, super floaty, great control. Great positions and precise landing on her dance elements. 1.5 twist to front half to straddle, that was almost identical to her pink meet 10 last year that I got to see. I would not be surprised to see it happen again. Yup, they gave it to her. That should lock up the meet for Florida.

197.85 to 197.075 is the final score, with the Gators winning by almost eight tenths. McMurtry wins vault (9.975) and bars (9.95), Guerrero wins beam (9.95), and Baker takes floor with her perfect 10.0. Boren should take the AA easily once you factor in Winston’s fall… yup, 39.6. Strong showing for both teams, but the scores hide the significant beam problems both teams are having. Alabama is also suffering from a lack of 10.0 vaults, and some landing issues on their fulls. Low 197s will not compete against the likes of Florida, LSU, Oklahoma or UCLA at nationals, but this meet shows very well what Alabama needs to work on.

Thanks for tuning in tonight! Be sure to check out the rest of our coverage this weekend on the various liveblogs.


Live blog by Caroline Medley

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