UF gymnastics: Eastern Michigan transfer energizes Gators

Florida's Rachel Slocum competes on the floor exercise against Kentucky last month at Exactech Arena/O'Connell Center. [Brad McClenny/Staff photographer]

Published: Thursday, February 9, 2017 at 8:21 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 9, 2017 at 8:21 p.m.

After becoming just the second NCAA gymnastics qualifier in Eastern Michigan history as a sophomore in 2016, Rachel Slocum decided she wanted more.



Who: No. 9 Georgia (5-1, 4-1 SEC) vs. No. 3 Florida (4-1, 2-1)

When: 6:45 p.m.

Where: Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center

TV: SEC Network

Parking update & Parking shuttle

A change to the O'Connell Center parking lot access starts with today's meet. Fans with the season parking pass can access the lot from either:

• Gale Lemerand Drive

• SW 2nd Avenue

No parking pass? No problem. Those fans can access the lot at:

• SW 2nd Avenue

UFPD and O'Connell Center staff will redirect fans without parking passes to SW 2nd Avenue. These attendants will be at University Avenue and Stadium Road. Fans with parking passes should be prepared to show the pass to gain access to Gale Lemerand Drive.

Another efficient option is the complimentary parking shuttle. It transport fans from the UF Commuter Lot on Gale Lemerand Drive to the O'Connell Center. For more information, visit FloridaGators.com

So she transferred to Florida, and the rest is, well, history in the making.

“I wouldn't say it was a step from Eastern Michigan to Florida,” Slocum said. “It was more of a hop. I always thought I was ready for something bigger.”

It takes talent and guts to make such a move. Slocum had them both, as well as that all-important C word – Confidence.

“She competes how she trains,” UF coach Jenny Rowland said. “She has a ton of energy and comes in every day with a big smile. She is a pleasure to work with.”

Slocum is already a regular on the vault and floor exercise for the Gators. But even when she's not competing, her personality really shines through — as does her sense of humor.

She is non-stop, always on the move. You just never know what she will do next.

“I have to have fun,” Slocum said. “I enjoy every minute of life.”

Her coach sees it every day.

“Her mood is so very important,” Rowland said. “She enjoys what she is doing. She just lightens up the mood in the whole arena. This team is better with her.”

Slocum was prepared for the season-opener at North Carolina State, but sprained her knee in practice.

Still, she competed by performing exhibitions on the vault and the floor exercise, coming away with scores of 9.925 and 9.85, respectively.

She's been in every Gator lineup in both events since.

“Just being in the lineup is such an honor,” said Slocum, the second-oldest of six children. “Proving myself is great. I like using my energy for the crowd.”

In her first real action against Kentucky on Jan. 13, Slocum won the vault competition with a collegiate-best score of 9.95 at UF's Exactech Arena.

It was the highest score for a Gator making her first appearance in the vault lineup, breaking the previous mark of 9.925 set by former great Bridget Sloan on Jan. 4, 2013.

In addition, Slocum has scored at least a 9.80 on every floor exercise, highlighted by a 9.90 against Auburn on Jan. 27 that tied her collegiate-best set last year for EMU, the 2016 Mid-American Conference champions.

“Rachel is an amazing competitor,” UF teammate Alex McMurtry said. “Her gymnastics speak for themselves. Of course, she's literally crazy all the time.”

So how does Slocum feel about this week's meet with Georgia?

“I think I'm most excited to see what leotard we'll be wearing,” she said.

OK, so maybe she's a little quirky.

But she's also a heck of a gymnast with a zest for life.

“Transferring to Florida was a big decision for me,” Slocum said. “I would not change any of it for the world. I went to NCAAs last year as an individual, but I have all these tremendous teammates now. It makes me even more confident.”

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