FORT WORTH, Texas — The Florida women’s gymnastics team advanced to the NCAA championship round for the third straight year after getting a lift from the return of star Trinity Thomas.

Florida’s Southeastern Conference counterpart LSU posted the top score of 197.4750 during the first session of the NCAA semifinals Thursday. The Gators (197.4000) finished ahead of California (196.9125) and Denver (196.5000) for a chance at their first national title since winning three straight from 2013 to ’15. LSU looks for its first title in program history.

Thomas, the reigning NCAA all-around champion, competed for the first time since suffering a lower leg injury in her floor routine in the regional on March 31. Thomas drilled a landing on the uneven bars with a near-perfect score of 9.95 to help the Gators take the lead after the first rotation. She also competed in the vault.

LSU has also been dealing with injuries. Haleigh Bryant, the leader in the all-around after the first semifinal with a total of 39.6875, has been managing a shoulder injury and hasn’t practiced much the past few weeks.

“I guess practice is overrated,” LSU coach Jay Clark joked in a television interview. “I was a little concerned they hadn’t had any reps whatsoever, just trying to save their bodies, and they came in and did a great job.”

Bryant, who earlier this year became the first in LSU history with three 10s in the same meet, closed out the floor routine with a 9.950. Aleah Finnegan, who received 10s in four straight weeks in February, tied the highest score on floor at nationals in LSU history with a 9.9625.

Cal sophomore Ella Cesario had a shocking fall on the bars as the Bears had to count a fall, just as Denver did on the beam.

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Trinity Thomas’ dominant return helps spur Gators’ surge to gymnastics final