SEC Gymnastics Championships: Gators On Top
Updated: Mar 24
The 2023 SEC Gymnastics Championships happened on March 18 at Gas South Arena in Duluth, Georgia. All eight teams in the SEC competed against each other in two sessions with the results from both sessions combining to determine the SEC Champions. In addition to the team title, individual titles were given for the all-around and for all four events.
Florida came in and proved why they were the top seed and the SEC regular season champions. They won with a score of 198.425, half of a point over second-place Alabama. Florida benefited from Trinity Thomas’s dominant performance where she scored perfect 10s on the uneven bars and floor exercise. In addition to winning the SEC title on both those events, Thomas won the all-around title. Her Florida teammate Leanne Wong won the balance beam title, and there was a four-way tie for the vault title between Cassie Stevens (Auburn), Jocelyn Moore (Missouri), Sloane Blakely (Florida), and Gabby Gladieux (Alabama).
The first session featured the four lower-ranked teams in the SEC: Auburn, Arkansas, Missouri, and Georgia.
Suni Lee did not compete due to a “non-gymnastics related health issue,” but that didn’t stop Auburn from taking the lead in the first session with a total score of 197.100. Cassie Stevens scored above 9.900 on every single event and led the all-around after session 1. Auburn was consistent, scoring between 49.225 and 49.350 in all four events which allowed them to stay ahead of the other four teams in this session.
Missouri was not far behind Auburn, finishing with a team total of 197.000. Helen Hu had beautiful routines on both the uneven bars and balance beam and scored 9.950 on both. What ultimately kept Missouri behind Auburn was a sub-49 vault rotation where the front half of the lineup struggled with their landings. However, Jocelyn Moore’s high-flying Yurchenko 1.5 which scored 9.950 was also a highlight.
Arkansas had a solid showing overall and finished with a 196.825. The highlight for Arkansas was their vault rotation where Norah Flatley, Cami Weaver, Frankie Price, and Lauren Williams all scored 9.900. Georgia finished last with a score of 196.600. While Georgia did not have any major problems, the team lacked the plethora of 9.900+ routines to keep up with the rest of the conference. However, Georgia’s performance was certainly an improvement over last year’s SEC Championship where they only scored 195.800. This highlights the recent improvements Georgia has made while they rebuild its program.
The second session featured the top four teams in the SEC: Alabama, Kentucky, LSU, and Florida, and the competition certainly did not disappoint.
Kentucky came in as the underdog team that was not expected to qualify for the evening session. They were led by their all-around star Raena Worley to a fourth-place finish with a total score of 197.675. Kentucky has set program records throughout this season, and this is definitely a program on the rise. LSU entered as the second seed despite injuries to several of their star athletes including Kiya Johnson and KJ Johnson. The highlight of their meet was their floor exercise rotation where Aleah Finnegan and Haleigh Bryant both scored 9.950. LSU will likely be disappointed with a third-place finish, but this result may light a fire under them heading into the NCAA tournament.
Alabama came into this event as the fourth seed after some inconsistent performances in the regular season. However, at the SEC Championship, they put out their best performance and came in second with a score of 197.925. One of the highlights was freshman Gabby Gladieux sticking her Yurchenko full vault and scoring a “perfect” 9.950 (9.950 is the maximum score for this vault). Luisa Blanco was stunning on the balance beam as always and scored a 9.950. Overall, Alabama should be pleased with their performance today and will hope to use this positive momentum for a great performance in the NCAA tournament.
The Florida Gators entered as the top seed and the regular season champions. The Gators started off strong on their first event with Sloane Blakely scoring a 9.950 for her vault. Then on the uneven bars, Florida was exceptional and had a team event total of 49.700. Blakely, Kayla DiCello, and Riley McCusker all scored 9.900, Victoria Nguyen and Leanne Wong both scored 9.950, and the highlight of the rotation was Trinity Thomas’s perfect 10. The Gators continued to impress on the balance beam where Leanne Wong scored a near-perfect 9.975, and DiCello also scored 9.950. They clinched the title with a strong performance on the floor exercise where Trinity Thomas scored another perfect 10.
The SEC is known for being one of the most competitive and high-level gymnastics conferences, and this year's championships only further proved that. All eight teams have qualified for the NCAA Regionals and will all have the ambition to qualify for the NCAA Championships. Overall, the quality of gymnastics shown at this event was impressive, and the future for SEC Gymnastics looks bright.