Gators win regional, earn spot in national championship

Florida gymnast Grace McLaughlin performs her floor routine during the NCAA Gymnastics Regional at the Exactech Arena in Gainesville.

[Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]
Published: Saturday, April 1, 2017 at 10:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, April 1, 2017 at 10:09 p.m.

As celebrations go, Rachel Slocum's was a 10.

The junior had just nailed her vault attempt, recording a 9.95 at the NCAA Regional at Exactech Arena. It was a big part of a Florida comeback to win Saturday the NCAA Regional.

Slocum broke into a dance, threw up a couple of high 10s and sprinted back up the runway to her teammates, hands waving back and forth as she “dabbed” and the partisan Gator crowd went nuts right along with her.

“The vault is so far away and Alex (McMurtry) and I were wondering what I was going to do on the way back,” Slocum said. “My gears started turning. You have to dab. Of course.”

In winning the regional, third-ranked Florida will advance as one of 12 teams to reach the NCAA Championships in St. Louis in two weeks. It will be UF's 35th trip to the championships.

Georgia, which came in ranked 10th, finished second in front of a crowd of 5,214 and will also be in the NCAA semifinals.

Florida finished with a score of 197.125, one of its lowest scores of the year. Georgia's score of 196.775 easily beat Missouri's 196.100 to earn the other trip to St. Louis.

Florida trailed Georgia halfway through the meet, in part because the Gators had a fall by Rachel Gowey and a major break by Alicia Boren on UF's first event, the bars. As a result, the Gators had to count a 9.425 score.

“We were a little tight,” said Florida coach Jenny Rowland. “But I wasn't worried. I knew this team was going to pick it up.”

The Gators came roaring back with a 49.45 score on the floor after a bye and 49.475 on the vault.

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