The early part of the 2019 season has seen several freshmen catapult onto the scene and create lightning for their teams, but few have shined as brightly as Florida’s Trinity Thomas.
In the team’s first five events of the season, Thomas has been a key figure in helping the Gators to a No. 2 ranking and a 4-1 record.
“I’d have to say that she really has come into this program and really identified herself as a very strong individual and amazing team member, which is very hard to do as a freshman—to own your identity and know who you are and really take ownership, leadership,” Florida coach Jenny Rowland said. “She’s handled herself with a lot of dignity and grace.”
The expectations Thomas was carrying with her before she even competed in her first collegiate meet were already large. As a three-time member of USA Senior National Team, the Pennsylvania native was already viewed as one of the elite gymnasts in the country.
At the 2018 U.S. Championships, Thomas finished eighth in the all-around, fourth on bars and sixth on floor and beam.
When Thomas, 17, first suited up in her Gators uniform, she looked like a veteran. In her first meet she posted a 39.475 in the all-around. Only her senior teammate Alicia Boren had a better score.
Thomas earned co-SEC Freshman of the Week after her first competition where she won the uneven bars with a 9.75 and placed third in floor exercise as Florida defeated No. 11 Missouri.
“I thought it was the most exciting thing ever,” Thomas said after the meet. “I was super excited, of course, going into my first college meet. But it's just like any other meet, except like 12 times more fun. I’ve never had a team like this, where we’re like sisters. I know they have my back and I have theirs. They make it so fun.”
Since then, Thomas has only improved. Every week the Gators have competed, she had earned some type of award. That includes three SEC Freshman of the Week honors and one SEC Gymnast of the Week honor.
After her performance against Auburn last week, Thomas is likely going to put another notch in her award belt. She claimed first place in the all-around, uneven bars and floor exercise.
Through five meets, Thomas has racked up two all-around victories and seven event titles. She also has the team’s top three all-around scores and the Gators’ highest bars score.
One of the things Thomas has yet to accomplish is posting a perfect score. She has hit 9.975 three times this season.
“I want [a 10] bad, really bad,” Thomas said. “I’m working hard on it, and I can see in the gym that it’s getting more and more consistent-looking, just like competition. So, one day.”
Much of that success may be due to just how comfortable Thomas has grown with the Gators in such a short amount of time.
“It’s been amazing,” Thomas said. “There’s no better place. I love it here at Florida.”
Thomas credits the entire Gators program for making her first season special.
“I think it’s the team, the coaches,” Thomas said. “We're so close and we have so much fun.”
The only hiccup on the Gators’ schedule so far was a loss to No. 1 Oklahoma on the road. But even in the defeat, Thomas still showed why she is such a top-notch performer.
Thomas posted a 9.975 on the bars and a 9.95 on the floor to lead the Gators. Her all-around total of 39.625 was the nation's sixth-highest of the weekend and the top posted by a freshman.
Yet, Thomas said she and the team still had areas they needed to work on if they wanted to compete for championships.
“I think we’re lacking landings on vault, like good landings on vault,” Thomas said. “Once we get those down, watch out.”
Thomas is one of six freshmen who are helping the Gators. Her fellow rookies include Leah Clapper, Sydney Johnson-Sharpf, Nya Reed, Savannah Schoenherr and Halley Taylor.
But Rowland says that it’s been her experienced Gators who have been the foundation of helping meld the new members and the veterans into a cohesive unit.
“It’s not an easy task, but I have to give a lot of credit to my upperclassmen, even the sophomores,” Rowland said. “I consider [them] upperclassmen. Sophomores, juniors, seniors have done a very good job of getting this team together, showing the freshmen the Gator way, and it’s showing out on the competition floor.”
Boren knows it will need to be a team effort if Florida wants to be the last team standing.
“The key is just for us to be normal, that’s all we need to be,” Boren said. “Just take it one thing at a time like we do in practice. We’re fully capable of doing what we do in practice in a meet, just putting it together. And once we do that, we're going be great.”
With such a strong start to the season, Thomas is anxious to see how she and her squad will finish out the campaign.
“Well, every single meet, we’ve just got our score a little bit better, a little bit better, a little bit better,” Thomas said. “So we're climbing up that mountain right now and when we get to the top, I can’t wait to see.”