Reigning NCAA all-around gymnastics champion Trinity Thomas of the University of Florida earned the 28th perfect 10 of her career Saturday, tying the 27-year-old record set by Kentucky's Jenny Hansen in 1996 and matched by UCLA's Jamie Dantzscher in 2004.
Thomas earned the score on vault during NCAA championships in Fort Worth, Texas, and after weeks of speculation as to whether she would compete again this postseason due to a lower right-leg injury she sustained at Regionals last month.
"I was not focused on [the record] at all," Thomas said in a TV interview after the meet. "I was just focused on being out here one last time with my team. We left it all out there on the floor and I could not be more proud of us."
Thomas hadn't practiced in the two weeks since Regionals, but shortly before competition Florida added Thomas to its bars and vault lineups for Thursday's semifinal meet. She was nearly perfect in her return on bars, drilling a stuck landing on her double layout dismount and earning a 10 from one judge and an overall score of 9.950. Later in the meet, she scored a 9.90 on vault with a tiny hop back on her landing and helped the Gators qualify to Saturday's final.
Saturday, she made history. Competing fifth in Florida's third rotation and with the Gators trailing Oklahoma, the defending champions, Thomas drilled a stuck landing on a Yurchenko 1½ vault to earn the first perfect 10 of the meet. After saluting the judges, she ran to her team and hugged and high-fived her teammates and coaches with tears in her eyes. When her score was posted, the crowd exploded in celebration. Thomas competed in only two events again Saturday, earning a 9.9125 on bars in the final routine of her career.
"I don't even know how to sum up [my career]," she said. "It's been the best time of my life. This fifth year has been a blessing and I am going to miss gymnastics so much."
Thomas and the second-ranked Gators ended up finishing second overall in the championship final, 0.15 points behind the top-ranked Sooners.
Throughout this season, Thomas has said she's focused on team accomplishments, including helping Florida win its first national title since 2015, and not the all-time 10s record. "I did come back for this team," Thomas said in a TV interview after Thursday's semifinal. "We are so special and I hope you can feel that even from the outside."
Coming off a phenomenal senior season in which she won the NCAA all-around, floor and uneven bars titles and earned 12 perfect 10s -- second best all-time for a single season -- Thomas announced she would return to the Gators as a super senior, opting to use a fifth year of eligibility offered to athletes whose 2020 and 2021 seasons were shortened due to the pandemic, while working toward her Master's in health education and behavior. One of the most coveted records in collegiate gymnastics, which Hansen and Dantzscher achieved in four seasons, seemed within her grasp.
Olympic (or elite) gymnastics stopped using the 10-point judging scale in 2007, but the "perfect 10" never left collegiate gymnastics. Along with the influx of Olympic gymnasts into college programs, the 10-point scale is often credited for the popularity of NCAA gymnastics. "People are gravitating to NCAA gymnastics because they know what a perfect 10 is," UF coach Jenny Rowland told ESPN earlier this year. "And they always will."
Thomas opened this season by earning her 21st perfect 10, on beam, and scored at least one perfect 10 on each apparatus -- known as a "gym slam" -- between Jan. 6 and March 19, when she scored two 10s during SEC championships.
Thomas closes out her collegiate career with 12 perfect 10s on floor, six on beam, five on bars and five on vault.