Shea saves the day – Florida Gators
FORT WORTH, Texas — The drama and mystery lingered even amid the joyful celebration Thursday night after the UF gymnastics team won to advance to the NCAA Finals.
The uncertainty centered on an equipment malfunction during Florida’s uneven bars routine. Coach’s Assistant Adrian Burde was seen talking to an NCAA official before a 10-minute delay that caused confusion among attendees, spectators, members of the media and viewers.
“The podium was going up and down,” Burde said.
Did he notice it first? Burde said no, he was not the conquering hero. He thought it was the Gators’ assistant Owen Fieldwho coaches the Gators on bars.
“Something must have come loose under the podium and everything lifted off the ground,” Field said.
What prompted Field to detect the dangerous situation? Field then cleared up that part of the mystery.
“Shea saved the day,” he said.
Wait? Shea? Who is Shea?
It turns out that she is Shea Wheeler, a UF junior in her third season as a team leader. For those wanting to know more about Shea, she was born in Minnesota, moved to Florida when she was 7, and has called Clearwater home ever since.
She also spent 15 years as a competitive gymnast and knows the sport, including what the barre apparatus is and isn’t supposed to do during competition.
“I went to pull the plank for Savannah [Schoenherr’s] walking up and down the podium and noticed while she was doing her routine that the floor was moving up and down where the wire is,” Wheeler said. “I knew it was wrong. The podium shouldn’t do that.”
Wheeler informed Field, who shared the news with Burde. Meanwhile, Burde was already having an unusual night. Spotting Peyton Richards during her jumping routine, Burde injured her hand and she immediately began to bloat.
Gators head coach Jenny Rowland urged Burde to have an X-ray in the medical room at Dickies Arena. The x-ray showed a pair of fractures to his right hand, which was shrouded in ice as Burde recounted the strange sequence of events.
“I never broke anything when I was a gymnast, and I broke my hand scouting here,” he said.
When he first heard about the bar platform bouncing up and down, Burde approached and planned to sit on the podium to hold it down as Megan Skaggs did his routine. It was then that a manager told Burde that he was not allowed to sit there. Burde shared the reason.
As the tension mounted, Skaggs performed his routine, posting a 9.9125 despite the extra bounce.
“I made it,” Field said. “She did a great job.
Finally, after seeing with his own eyes the issue brought to his attention by the Gators, an NCAA official took a closer look at the bar setup and discovered that the weights used to hold the device and rig in place – a system of jugs supposed to be filled with water or sand and attached to the device and connected under the podium by straps – had somehow come undone. In the heats, gymnasts compete on platforms instead of the arena floor, which required a modified system to secure the apparatus in place.
Given the situation at the time, it was a risky time for the Gators. They struggled on the vault, their opening rotation, and after four barre routines, sat in third place. The top two teams advanced to the second semifinal to join Utah and Oklahoma on Saturday in the Final Four.
“The vaults were a little, a little out of control,” Rowland said. “You could tell they were a little tight after that.”
While Skaggs, Trinity Thomas and Leanne Wong each posted 9.900s on the jump, Schoenherr, Sloan Blakely and Nya Roseau failed to reach 9,800, leaving the Gators with some ground to make up for.
Coincidentally, that’s exactly what they did, starting with Thomas’ bars routine after the delay. She posted a score of 9.975, good enough to be crowned national champion in the event.
Thomas tried to relax during the delay, even putting off his warm-ups.
“At first I was so confused,” Thomas said. “But then they were like, ‘Oh, it’s a 10-minute wait, you have to warm up again. Then I started making jokes. Honestly, I was fine and then I was ready to go.”
Wong followed Thomas on bars with a 9.9125, then the Gators took off on beam and floor, overcoming their early deficit to stifle Auburn for the national semifinal victory. The defending Michigan and Missouri national champion failed to advance.
Rowland was relieved and delighted with how the Gators responded after the most unusual delay. Burde, in his 16th season at UF, said he’s never seen a competition halted because of it.
In the end, it became an original footnote.
“When we had an equipment failure, it actually, in hindsight, was a great reset,” Rowland said. all year. We have survived and moved on and continue to dance.
“I was just glad Trinity was next. She can stay calm and collected and get up and do what she’s capable of. We kept taking our smiles and not a huge sip.”
Florida’s push after the delay silenced any potential controversy had they finished third and been unable to repeat their previous bars routines. This would have been one of the biggest controversies in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex as everyone wondered who shot JR
“Somebody had to do a job and they didn’t do it right,” Burde said.
On the other hand, Wheeler has done his job and more. What made him talk, anyway?
“It could potentially be a safety issue. I wanted to put the girls’ safety first,” she said. “It really was perfect timing.”
That night, Shea definitely saved the day.