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UF Gymnastics: Gators Top 2021 WCGA Preseason Poll

Florida celebrated its second consecutive Southeastern Conference regular-season title in 2020 (above). Florida enters 2021 at No. 1 on the WCGA preseason poll.
Photo By: Susan Erdelyi

Courtesy of University Athletic Association

BY MARY HOWARD

Florida begins the 2021 season on top of the Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association (WCGA) preseason poll. This is the third No. 1 preseason ranking for the Gator program, as UF also started the 2014 and 2015 season atop those preseason polls.

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Both Florida and Oklahoma received 16 first-place votes, with the Gators claiming the top preseason position in points. Rounding out the top five are No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 3 LSU, No. 4 Utah, and No. 5 Michigan.

The nation’s preseason top five has included the Gators every season since 2007 (2007: 3rd; 2008: 2nd; 2009: 3rd; 2010: 4th; 2011: 3rd; 2012: 3rd, 2013: 3rd; 2014: 1st, 2015: 1st, 2016: 2nd, 2017: 5th; 2018: 2nd; 2019: 3rd, 2020: 3rd; 2021: 1st).

“We’re excited that the Gators are ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll,” Florida Head Coach Jenny Rowland said. “However, I think the Gators are most thankful that we have an opportunity to get out and compete again this year for our fans, for Gator Nation, and for NCAA Gymnastics.”

Florida faces Southeastern Conference opponents only in its 2021 regular-season schedule. All league teams rank among the preseason top 16, including home dates versus No. 10 Georgia (Jan. 15), No. 12 Kentucky (Feb. 19), No. 14 Auburn (Feb. 26), and No. 16 Missouri (Jan. 29). Road action sends the Gators to No. 3 LSU (Feb. 12), No. 6 Alabama (March 5), No. 14 Auburn (Jan. 8), and No. 15 Arkansas (Jan.22).

The Gators in 2021:
Florida ranked No. 2 nationally with a 10-0 overall record and claimed its second consecutive SEC regular-season title when the pandemic ended 2020 competition on March 12.

Florida returns four with 18 All-America honors  РAlyssa Baumann, Savannah Schoenherr, Megan Skaggs and Trinity Thomas. Three of those All-Americans won league event titles in the last SEC Championships meet in 2019 РBaumann (balance beam), Skaggs (beam), and Thomas (vault). Thomas claimed the 2020 SEC Gymnast of the Year honor.

Five on Florida’s roster have been a part of either (or both) U.S. Senior or Junior National Teams – Baumann, Jazmyn Foberg, Sydney Johnson-Scharpf, Skaggs, and Thomas.

Other returners include juniors Leah Clapper, Nya Reed, and Halley Taylor and sophomore Payton Richards – all who competed in 2020.

Four freshmen join the Gators in 2020. Chloi Clark (Denver, Colo.), Gabrielle Gallentine (Iron Station, N.C.), and Ellie Lazzari (Wheaton, Ill.) all competed at Junior Olympics Level 10 National Championships. Lazzari won 2019 J.O. Junior F all-around, beam, and floor titles. Gallentine took third in 2017 J.O. Junior B all-around, and Clark tied for fourth in 2019 J.O. Senior B vault competition. Both Gallentine and Lazzari competed as Junior International Elites. Alex Magee was third on bars and fourth in both all-around and floor in 2019 Florida L10 State Championships.