Two perfect 10s cause No. 11 Alabama gymnastics to fall just short to No. 2 Florida

Junior Luisa Blanco prepares for her balance beam routine during Sundays meet against No. 2 Florida.

Courtesy of UA Athletics

Junior Luisa Blanco prepares for her balance beam routine during Sunday’s meet against No. 2 Florida.

The drought of wins against Florida in head-to-head matchups in Gainesville, Florida, looked to be over for Alabama gymnastics, but it has continued. No. 11 Alabama fell to No. 2 Florida 197.000-196.925 Sunday afternoon. 

The last time the Crimson Tide achieved a win against the Gators remains when “Independent Women Part 1” by Destiny’s Child was the No. 1 song and “Save the Last Dance” was No. 1 in the box office back on January 19, 2001.    

Alabama headed into the fourth and final rotation leading Florida by .350, which announcer Bart Conner described as “a fairly big margin in collegiate gymnastics.” However, the margin proved not to be big enough. 

Three of Alabama’s first five scores on the balance beam were below 9.80, allowing the deficit to narrow. But it was a perfect 10 on the floor exercise by Florida’s Nya Reed that truly put the Gators within striking distance of a win. While a sold-out Stephen C. O’Connell Center of nearly 9,000 fans was cheering after Reed received her first-ever perfect score, Alabama junior Luisa Blanco had just begun her balance beam routine. Blanco was able to block out the noise and post a 9.950 score, which was the highest score on the balance beam from either team. 

Despite Blanco’s high score, it was still possible for the Gators to claim the win with a score of 9.950 from their final competitor. Luckily for Florida head coach Jenny Rowland the meet was in the hands of Trinity Thomas. Thomas was flawless, scoring her fourth career perfect 10 on the floor exercise and making back-to-back perfect scores for the Gators. 

Alabama heads back to Tuscaloosa with a 0-2 (0-1 SEC) record to begin its 2022 campaign. 

In the loss, the Crimson Tide scored a season high on all four events. For the second straight week, the Crimson Tide’s highest-scoring event was the uneven bars, with a 49.350. Blanco and fellow junior Makarri Doggette both scored a 9.925 on the uneven bars, winning the event title for the afternoon. Alabama did not have to count a score lower than 9.80 on the apparatus. 

Freshman Lilly Hudson made her collegiate debut against Florida, and it was a statement. The Fleming Island, Florida, native scored a 9.850 on the floor exercise and a 9.875 on the balance beam. 

“She’s going to be a pleasure to watch in college,” color commentator Kathy Johnson Clarke said on the broadcast. 

Alabama’s biggest improvement from its opening weekend came on the floor exercise. The Crimson Tide went from a 48.575 to a 49.300. Senior Lexi Graber, the 2021 NCAA floor champion, led Alabama with a 9.925. Blanco also put together a 9.90 routine on the floor exercise. 

Seniors Shallon Olsen, Kaylee Quinn and Sania Mitchell all made their 2022 season debut in Gainesville. The highest score from their four combined routines was a 9.850 from Olsen on the vault. 

Alabama will look to find its first win of the season on Friday, Jan. 21, inside of Coleman Coliseum. The Crimson Tide’s season opener is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. CT and will be televised on the SEC Network.