Florida wins SEC gymnastics championship, Alabama gymnastics second for second straight year
Alabama gymnastics was not able to claim a league title in the first season of coach Ashley Johnston's tenure, finishing second in the SEC Championship on Saturday in Duluth, Georgia. The Crimson Tide scored a 197.925, behind Florida's 198.425 but ahead of LSU's 197.8, Kentucky's 197.675, and Auburn's 197.1.
More:Lilly Hudson wins all-around as Alabama gymnastics beats Boise State to finish regular season
As the fourth seed, Alabama went out of the traditional order and started on balance beam. The rotation was solid for the Crimson Tide, which scored three 9.85s. However, despite a 9.95 from Luisa Blanco to close it out, it was not enough for Alabama to take the lead heading into the floor exercise.
The Crimson Tide narrowed the gap with a strong second rotation, but a perfect 10 by Florida's Trinity Thomas on uneven parallel bars allowed the Gators to take over first place.
The Gators extended the lead in the third rotation and closed out its second consecutive SEC championship in the fourth, adding a second perfect 10 from Thomas.
Here's what we learned:
Unable to take early lead
Despite a 9.95 from Blanco and a 9.875 from fellow senior Ella Burgess, Alabama's 49.375 balance beam score was only good enough to tie Florida for second through the first rotation behind Kentucky. The Wildcats scored three 9.9s on floor exercise, just enough to take a quarter-point lead over the Crimson Tide and the Gators heading to the second rotation.
Hot finishes to final three rotations
After the first rotation, the Crimson Tide kicked it into gear, closing each of its final three events with multiple 9.9s. On the floor, Shania Adams and Gabby Gladieux had consecutive 9.9s, while sophomore Lilly Hudson added a 9.95 and Blanco closed with a 9.925. On vault, Gladieux and Hudson each scored a 9.9, with senior Shallon Olsen scoring a 9.925 and Blanco 9.95. Closing the meet on bars, Jordyn Paradise, Mati Waligora, Cameron Machado, and Blanco closed Alabama's meet with four straight 9.9s.
Gators sweep individual titles
Not only did Florida win the team title, it had each individual title as well. Thomas won three, taking home the all-around, balance beam, and floor exercise. Leanne Wong claimed the balance beam title, and Sloane Blakely won the vault.
The NCAA selection show is Monday. The Crimson Tide will be seeded into one of four regions, with the regionals beginning Thursday, March 30.
This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Alabama gymnastics finishes second to Florida in SEC Championship meet