Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports The Florida Gators fought gamely all night in the Super Six on Saturday night, faltering only enough to make their comebacks from falls on their first and last rotations dramatic.
It wasn’t nearly enough for a fourth national title.
Florida posted a 197.700, a score that would have threatened to win a national title in years past, but the Gators never saw eye-to-eye with Oklahoma, which made a stunning return to the unimpeachable form it had struggled to find in recent meets and obliterated the competition with a NCAA Championships-record 198.375. And LSU, which struggled for most of the night, roared to life on the balance beam in its final rotation, posting a fantastic — in perhaps more senses than one — 49.7250 rotation score to propel itself to a 197.725 score, and past Florida into second.
The Gators finished well clear of young UCLA (197.265) and Utah (196.5875), and were as solid as Alabama (196.000) was messy on the night. And junior Alex McMurtry, fresh off her national championship performance on Friday , punctuated Florida’s Super Six with an exclamation point for the second time in three years, following a title-clinching 9.95 in Florida’s 36th routine of the night on the uneven bars in 2015 with a perfect 10.0 on the apparatus in the Gators’ final routine on Saturday.
McMurtry’s 10.0 was the third by a Gator in NCAA Championships competition, following 10.0s on vault by Susan Hines in semifinal and Super Six competition in 1998, and her 39.800 all-around score was a quietly brilliant performance — the best ever by a Gator in Super Six competition, and tied for third all-time in Super Six competiton — overshadowed by Oklahoma freshman Maggie Nichols posting a 39.8625.
But Oklahoma’s virtuoso performance showed how great the distance between the Sooners’ peak and every other program’s truly was this year. The Sooners came within 0.0025 of notching phenomenal 49.500 scores on all four rotations, set an NCAA Championships record on the balance beam that LSU would break two hours later, and posted the season’s highest score in all competitions — all with a national championship on the line.
And LSU’s insane finish — which helped the Tigers top Florida for the fourth time in competition in 2017, but also prompted grousing from fans who have viewed some of the Tigers’ gaudier scores this year with skepticism — demonstrated the value of having seniors with bodies of work that have earned the benefit of the doubt in a judged sport where subjective opinions will always decide champions.
Truth be told, Florida could have been sharper, if only marginally. McMurtry’s scores led Florida on all four rotations, and only Alicia Boren’s 9.95 on floor matched McMurtry on any of them. McMurtry’s 10 and her and Boren’s 9.95s on floor were the Gators’ only scores of 9.95 or better on the evening; Oklahoma and LSU each had three of those on the balance beam alone.
And Florida’s beam score of 49.300, despite being third-best in program history for […]