Trinity Thomas: Teaming Through Trials, Staying Thankful

By Christy Sandmaier

“Living up to the Gator Standard is something that I challenge myself to do always… for my teammates who were seniors, they didn’t have another day, month, year or season left. So, I quickly realized where my focus needed to be.” – Trinity Thomas

With her team on pace to challenge for the top and capture it all at NCAAs in Fort Worth, Texas in April and the anticipation of earning a place at Olympic Trials in June, Trinity Thomas was looking ahead to one of the best and most exciting seasons of her career. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic entered the picture and suddenly everything was different. Hours spent planning, preparing and pursuing her goals, for a moment, appeared empty. 

It was tough. And it was emotional. But for Thomas, time with family, and perspective from her teammates and coaches also created a resurgence in her heart to refocus on the future.

The Gator standout and SEC Gymnast of Year shared her thoughts on an interrupted 2020 season, her absolute love for Florida and her teammates, and her new perspective as she pushes through one of the biggest challenges in her gymnastics career – time. 

Congratulations on winning SEC Gymnast of the Year! Please share with us your thoughts when you first learned of the honor, and now that you’ve had a chance to let it sink in, some of your reflections on what the award means to you…

Thank you so much! Winning SEC Gymnast of the Year is such an amazing achievement for me! I was beyond excited when I found out and I am very proud of my determination and what I brought to the table this season. It was one of my goals for this season and an exclamation point on my growth from freshman to sophomore year. 

Your team was having an amazing season and you looked better than ever. Is it possible to describe the emotions you felt when the season ended so abruptly? Take us inside the moment you found out there would be no post season competition…

I was at a loss of words and I had this empty feeling in my gut. It took a few minutes before I could react. I was frozen in time. I didn’t even think that it was real. It didn’t feel real at all. As I looked around at my teammates and the sobs seemed to get louder and louder, I knew this was really happening. It was real, our incredible season was over. It still took a few days to really sink in because I was in disbelief. I was waiting for a call, text, email – something to say it was back on. That never came. In fact, the news just only got worse.  

I had a mix of emotions. I was hurt, sad, angry and then empathetic. I still had two years to do gymnastics with my team. I still had two years of possibility for a championship ring and national title. As for my teammates who were seniors, they didn’t have another day, month, year or season left. So, I quickly realized where my focus needed to be. I just wanted to make sure they were okay and try to be there for them through this difficult time. I knew that they would be okay because they’re strong, and the entire team put everything out on the floor this year. 

I was so proud of everyone and I knew that they were, too. The seniors should be so proud of all they have accomplished this season and throughout the entirety of their careers. They pushed the team throughout fall training and the season. Although only God knows what would have happened at this year’s SEC and NCAA Championships, I know in my heart this team would have given it all on the competition floor. This team was everything and more. 

Talk about the highlights from the season, and what you think made the difference in your team’s performance from last season? You all looked so incredibly confident out there this year.

Honestly, this season in itself was a highlight. We were 10-0. We were right on track to fight to win a SEC and National championship. I was one event away from a gym slam. This season was incredible, and my team is even more so. I think the results of last year’s regionals were hard for all of us to take in. We had decisions to make after not making it to NCAAs. We decided that we never wanted to feel that hurt again. We decided that we were going to go back and put in the work in and out of the gym to make sure what we were doing was pushing ourselves towards our goals. We decided that we were going to leave it all out on the floor this year. And lastly, we decided that we were going to be the 2020 NCAA National Champions. We went out there this year with confidence and passion. We were determined to meet our expectations and obtain our goals. 

Trinity Thomas
2020 Gator Gymnastics
University of Florida
Feb. 7, 2020 – No. 2 Florida 197.875, No. 4 Denver 197.25, No. 18 Iowa State 196.80

Do you feel there are any positives at all that came out of having to cut the season short?

Absolutely! Physically, mentally and spiritually I have been able to recover. My body has definitely appreciated some time off. Hard landings every week definitely takes a toll. Also, I committed to the University of Florida late 2018, graduated the first week of June and headed to UF two weeks later. I lost two summers and a year with my family. Because of everything going on, I returned home, and I have been able to spend time with my siblings. I have a sister who is heading to Penn State for track so this unexpected time together has been a blessing. Obviously at this point, I am itching to get back to work but I know how important it is to continue social distancing to keep people safe and so that we can kick COVID sooner rather than later.

What’s your day-to-day been like the last 8 weeks? 

I finished out my spring semester working online from home. It has definitely been a change of scenery and sometimes a little difficult to work from home. I had to wake up every morning for my 8:30 class then, I would run and bike with my family. We work out twice a day and play outdoor sports as a family. Every week I Zoom or Facetime my teammates, and my coaches have individual and team Zoom meetings with us as well. We are all doing well at staying in touch and keeping each other motivated.  

Tell us about your teammates and what being a Florida Gator means to you. What strengths do you draw from your teammates and coaches?

I absolutely love Florida, my team and coaches. Each of us brings something different to the table. We are able to take what we need from each other, lift each other up and help each other out. I could not do what I do without them. Everyone is so motivating, encouraging and uplifting. I couldn’t ask for a better environment or a better program to be a part of. Being a Florida Gator means the world to me. Living up to the Gator Standard is something that I challenge myself to do always. The University of Florida is so special, and Gator Nation is amazing. We are an everything school and I could see exactly why as soon as I stepped foot on campus.

You also made the U.S. National Team again in 2019. What were your thoughts going into the 2020 elite season and what is your outlook for 2021? 

After I received the news about NCAA and came to terms that the season was over, I was ready to just focus on training for Trials. Then, that goal was put on pause also. So, now I just want to stay healthy and in shape and be able to do gymnastics again. When I get back in the gym, if the Olympics still is looking like a realistic goal and I am given the opportunity for Olympic Trials that will be another blessing. So, we shall see what the future holds. With so much uncertainty it’s hard to plan. Gymnastics has been on hold for the first time in my career. Life without it is so weird. I’m just looking forward to getting back to work with my teammates.

Outside of gymnastics, what do you enjoy doing most during any spare time? What are some of your favorite things to do on campus?  

Outside of gymnastics, I enjoy dancing, singing, traveling and the pool when I have time. My favorite thing on campus is riding my scooter and going to other athletic events.

Finally, how do you think you’ve grown and changed as an athlete and person since attending and competing in college? 

I have grown immensely as a student-athlete since freshman year. I enrolled at UF at age 17 and had no high school experience outside of sports. Everything was so new and I mean, everything! I hadn’t sat in a classroom in three years. 

Now that I am going into my junior year, I know the ropes a lot better. I have become a lot more confident in and out of the gym and the classroom. I have learned a lot about myself and where I want to be in the years to come. I still get nervous but it’s a lot easier when everyone around you believes in you, supports you and your goals. My teammates, other students, coaches, tutors, etc. all want to see me succeed. I have a lot of special people in my circle and I am thankful for each and every one of them.

Photos by Erin Long and Lloyd Smith

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