Four Metroplex gymnasts were crowned NCAA women’s champions Saturday in the Fort Worth Convention Center Arena as members of the three-time national champion Florida Gators.
Claire Boyce of Arlington, Rachel Spicer of Highland Village, Grace McLaughlin of Allen and Kennedy Baker of Flower Mound hoisted trophies with their Gators teammates after edging Utah by 0.05 points following the last routine.
The final result was 197.850 to 197.800. Oklahoma (197.525) was third.
For Spicer, a senior who has been part of all three of Florida’s national championships, Saturday marked the end of a long career that first took flight in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and she shared the moment with family, friends and former coaches.
“They were just super excited for me to end my career that way,” she said. “I’ve had an awesome gymnastics career my whole life, but that was just the cherry on top.”
After posting a 9.85 on the balance beam, Spicer’s only event of the night, she became the team cheerleader all the way through teammate Alex McMurtry’s 9.95 on the uneven bars, which pushed Florida into first place on their final routine of the night.
The win by the closest of margins forced her and her teammates to control their excitement until they got an official nod.
“I was like, ‘Are you sure?’” Spicer said. “I don’t want to start crying before we know. The score came up and we did it, which is amazing.”
Utah’s Georgia Dabritz forced Florida’s hand in the final rotation of the night, posting a 9.975 on the vault, which put gave the nine-time champion Utes a .55-point lead over then-leading Auburn.
“I did the best vault I could,” Dabritz said. “After that, we had to wait in the team pen and see where we ended up.”
Prior to Dabritz’s vault, she posted her second 10 of the weekend on the uneven bars, becoming the first gymnast to earn perfect scores twice in one championship weekend since Georgia’s Courtney Kupets in 2009.
Florida won the competition on the floor exercise, posting a Saturday-high team total of 49.650, including a 9.975 from co-all-around champion Kytra Hunter.
“It might have been the best one we’ve done all season,” Florida junior Bridget Sloan said.
Sloan, who returned from a severely sprained right ankle early in the season, posted a 9.950 on the bars right before McMurtry’s championship-winning routine.
Sloan said after the victory, in the team’s new light-blue leotards, she felt like a character from the Disney movie Frozen.
“I’ve always wanted to be a princess, so I guess this is as good as it’s going to get,” she said.
Spicer has continued to compete at a high level as a senior while her mother fights breast cancer through chemotherapy treatments. For Spicer to stick her final landing in Fort Worth and bring an NCAA trophy home to Lake Lewisville couldn’t have been written better in a movie, she said.
“Being in my back yard, literally, I can’t even describe the feeling. I’m so speechless right now and excited,” she said.
The individual event finals are Sunday afternoon.