The 2013 DanceBlue marathon raised $1,113,189.42 for the fight against cancer. (photo via DanceBlue)
For 24 hours in a row, University of Kentucky students danced away their Friday and Saturday, and it was all for a great cause.
Memorial Coliseum played host to the eighth annual DanceBlue marathon, where a record $1,113,189.42 was raised for the fight against pediatric cancer. After the final total was revealed on Saturday evening, participants learned of a $500,000 endowment fund started by the late Joy Wills, who beat cancer three times and supported DanceBlue during her life.
"This year, with a record number of 800 dancers, DanceBlue was able to raise over $1.1 million for the Golden Matrix Fund to support cancer research at the Markey Cancer Center and child-life initiatives in the DanceBlue Kentucky Children's Hospital Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic," said Ethan Ritter, DanceBlue's 2013 Overall Chair. "It was a wonderful 24 hours that united our entire campus and state."
Include UK Athletics in that too.
Wildcat student-athletes, coaches, teams and the department at large lent their support in myriad ways. Multiple coaches - including John Calipari and Matthew Mitchell - took to the stage to encourage dancers, one of whom was former UK wide receiver La'Rod King. Any visitors to the marathon left in awe of the dedication and passion of the participants.
"I was blown away by the number of students in that gym Friday night dancing and raising money to fight pediatric cancer," Coach Cal said. "As I told them Friday, they may never do anything more meaningful than what they did with DanceBlue. It is hard to do something by yourself, but to come together like they did and raise more than a million dollars warms my heart. It will make a tremendous difference in the fight against cancer."
The women's soccer team took an even more active role.
The women's soccer team presented a check for $4,000 at the DanceBlue marathon. (UK Athletics)
In September, the Cats held their second-annual "Kick Cancer" match. Inspired by a young fan who lost her battle with brain and spinal cord cancer, players wore special gold jersey that were later auctioned off. In addition, $1 from each ticket sold to UK's match against Mississippi State was set aside. With that money, the women's soccer team presented a check for $4,000 to DanceBlue.
"It means a lot for us as a team to be able to give back to the Lexington community and donate to something that we strongly believe in," head coach Jon Lipsitz said. "Allison Berger was someone who touched all of our hearts and so we will continue to do everything we can to fight this awful disease in her honor. Yes, we want to win games and win championships, but just as important is winning off the field, and this cause means a lot to our players, coaches, staff and university."
The donation by the women's soccer team instigated a little good-natured competitiveness from a fellow UK program. Volleyball head coach Craig Skinner, in addressing dancers, announced his team would hold a match of its own next season to benefit DanceBlue.
"I personally challenge Coach Lipsitz the volleyball team will raise more money than the soccer team next year," said Skinner before going on to propose the losing coach shave his head. Lipsitz may want to amend that wager considering he has substantially more hair to begin with.
Friendly jabs aside, DanceBlue - which has raised more than $5 million since its inception- has grown into something few could have imagined when it began in 2006. That good work will surely continue with or without the involvement of UK Athletics, but that involvement is appreciated nonetheless.
"The support from our athletic community was terrific," Ritter said. "Visits from our coaches got our dancers excited, the only thing they cheered more for were our clinic families. Our continued use of Memorial Coliseum for the event and the special events hosted by teams like women's soccer shows that UK Athletics truly takes interest in supporting events that improve our community."
Men's basketball - Following its most complete victory of the season within SEC action, the Wildcats conclude its two-game road swing through the Heart of Dixie at Alabama on Tuesday. - Sophomore Kyle Wiltjer turned in another 17-point performance, while classmate Ryan Harrow reached double figures for the eighth straight game and dished out a UK career-high eight assists in the win. Freshman Nerlens Noel continued his imposing defensive prowess with a career-high seven blocks to couple with 10 points and nine rebounds. - Alabama enters the matchup following a one-point victory over Texas A&M on Saturday. The Anthony Grant-led Crimson Tide are 11-6 overall on the season and own a 3-1 record within SEC play.
Women's basketball - No. 5 Kentucky improved to 18-1 overall, 6-0 in the SEC with commanding wins over Mississippi State and Auburn last week in Memorial Coliseum. The Cats are now riding a school-record 33-game home winning streak and the nation's longest overall winning streak at 17. - The 100-47 win over Mississippi State was the largest margin of victory over an SEC opponent in school history. Junior center DeNesha Stallworth led four players in double digits with a UK career-high 25 points in just 24 minutes of action. Senior All-America candidate A'dia Mathies followed with 21 points. UK forced 25 turnovers and won the rebounding battle 46-20. - In UK's "We Back Pat" game vs. Auburn, defense was again the name of the game. The Wildcats held the Tigers to just 21 first half points, taking a 51-21 lead at the break. Mathies led the way with 16 points in the opening stanza. She went on to notch her second straight 20-point game with a season-high 24 points on a near perfect shooting night. Mathies hit 8-of-9 from the field, including 5-of-6 from the 3-point line and 3-of-4 from the charity stripe. Gymnastics - The No. 14 University of Kentucky gymnastics team defeated No. 9 Arkansas in convincing fashion in front of more than 5,600 fans inside Memorial Coliseum on Friday. - The Wildcats took the meet 195.5-193.075 while winning every team and individual event. - The Wildcats continued the unprecedented start to the season as Friday's win gave the program back-to-back SEC wins for the first time ever. All four wins this season have come against higher-ranked opponents. - Kentucky is off to the best start in school history as the Wildcats have never before topped 195 in all three meets to begin the season. - Audrey Harrison stole the Excite Night at the Kentucky Classic show winning the individual all-around competition for the second consecutive week. The Knoxville, Tenn., native's season high 39.275 was highlighted by her 9.9 to anchor on uneven bars with a score, which ties for her career high. - Harrison won individual titles on bars and floor exercise (9.85). The junior now has four event titles this year and 11 all-time.
Rifle - Kentucky knocked off two top-15 teams over the weekend in Oxford, Miss., defeating No. 11 Ole Miss (4670 - 4611) on Saturday and No. 10 Memphis (4646 - 4598) on Sunday. - Senior Heather Greathouse led the Wildcats in their win over Ole Miss, shooting an 1176 aggregate score. Freshman Connor Davis delivered a 594 in air rifle. - Senior Ed Ryznar had a strong showing in Kentucky's win over Memphis, shooting a 574 in smallbore and 588 in air rifle. - Sophomore Cody Manning recorded a new personal best aggregate score of 1162 in Sunday's match with Memphis.
Men's tennis - The Kentucky men's tennis team got off to a 2-0 start to the 2013 season with two 7-0 wins over Northern Kentucky and Morehead State. - The pair of wins were the first in the head coaching career of Cedric Kauffmann. - No. 15 Tom Jomby and No. 94 Anthony Rossi each earned singles wins on Sunday, while Jomby and Kevin Lai went 2-0 on the day in doubles. - UK next takes to the court on Wednesday at No. 22 Indiana in Bloomington for the Wildcats first of 15 matches versus ranked teams in 2013.
Women's tennis - The Kentucky women's tennis team opened the 2013 season with two dominating wins, defeating Morehead State 7-0 and Belmont 6-1 on Saturday. - Freshman Nadia Ravita opened her collegiate career with two singles wins in the No. 1 spot and two doubles wins paired with junior Caitlin McGraw in the No. 1 doubles slot. - Sophomore Stephanie Fox failed to drop a set in two singles wins on Saturday, taking both contests 6-0, 6-0.
Tuesday, Jan. 22 Men's basketball at Alabama - 9:00 p.m.
Wednesday, Jan. 23 Men's tennis at Indiana - 2:00 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 24 Women's basketball at South Carolina - 7:00 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 25 Track and field hosts Rod McCravy Memorial - 10:00 a.m. Men's tennis hosts Michigan State - 1:00 p.m. Gymnastics at Alabama - 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 26 Track and field hosts Rod McCravy Memorial - 10:00 a.m. Swimming and diving host Louisville - 12:30 p.m. Men's basketball hosts LSU - 4:00 p.m. Men's tennis hosts Texas/South Carolina
The Kentucky cheerleading team's bid for its 20th national championship fell just short Sunday night. The Wildcats were named runners-up to 2013 UCA Champions University of Memphis.
In 2012, head coach Jomo Thompson and Kentucky had returned the title home to Lexington after Alabama defeated them in 2011. Sunday night in Orlando, Fla., UK fell just shy of repeating as national champions, but a missed stunt, according to the official twitter account of the UCA, likely made the difference in the end.
"It just unfortunate," said Thompson. "It's just one of
those things that happen. Just disappointed, but I'm very proud of our effort.
I thought we executed well."
Kentucky finished ahead of Alabama, Central Florida and Mississippi who rounded out the top five.
Head coach Dawn Walters and the UK dance team were also in Orlando this weekend competing in the Pom and Hip-Hop dance events.
UK had a solid performance Sunday, earning an eighth-place finish in the Pom competition. The dancers add to that performance with a sixth-place finish in the Hip Hop division, an improvement from an eighth-place finish in 2012.
"The biggest thing I think was that so many people complimented us and were just like, 'Wow, you guys were awesome,' " said Walters. "It was great to hear other great teams talk about us and notice us."
The battle in the Pom division was close as eighth-place UK was just one full point out of fifth place with little separation in between. Kentucky was the lone Southeastern Conference representative in the final eight in the Pom event.
In the Hip-hop performance, UK had to overcome some adversity when it had to turn to an alternate dancer right before the competition with one of the dancers pulling out during warm-ups. Kentucky still managed to put on a memorable performance, pulling off maneuvers that only a few teams attempted on the night.
UK Athletics congratulates to both teams on their outstanding achievements this weekend.
The UK cheerleading and dance teams will compete at the UCA/UDA Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championship this weekend in Orlando, Fla. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics)
The 2013 UCA/UDA Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championship is this weekend, which means the Kentucky cheerleading team will be pursuing a record 20th title on Saturday and Sunday. The cheerleaders spend most of the year supporting UK's 22 varsity teams in competition, but this is their chance to step into the limelight.
Led by head coach Jomo Thompson, the cheerleaders brought the title back home to Lexington in 2012 after seeing their bid for a four-peat undone by Alabama in 2011. This year, the Wildcats will be looking to extend their latest streak to two championships. UK has won 19 of the 28 UCA national championships dating back to 1985 and 15 in the last 18 season, an unprecedented level of dominance for a program steeped in tradition.
The UK dance team will be at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., competing in both the hip hop and pom dance categories. The event begins on Friday, but the UK cheer and dance teams will not perform until Saturday.
According to the schedule published by the UCA, the Division IA pom and hip hop dance semifinals will take place at 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., respectively. The cheerleaders will compete at 6 p.m. on Saturday in the Division IA semifinals. Finals for all three competitions are on Sunday.
Make sure you follow @UKAthleticsNews on Twitter for updates as results come in, particularly beginning at about 7:30 p.m. when results are announced and stay tuned for a story here on Cat Scratches late on Sunday evening. If you are interested in finding other ways to follow along, check out this page on the UCA website.
Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart's vision of reinventing Commonwealth Stadium has never been closer to becoming reality.
On Thursday, Gov. Steve Beshear and legislative leaders in Frankfort, Ky., announced their strong support for University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto's plan to pursue bonding self-finance a "dramatic $275 million transformation of the UK campus." UK Athletics and its football program figure prominently into those plans, as a $110-million renovation of Commonwealth Stadium and the Nutter Training Facility is in the works.
"This is critical," Capilouto said in a video message. "The success of our football program is how athletics remains one of the handful of financially self-sufficient programs in the country. It's how athletics funds millions of dollars in academic scholarships and other University needs each year."
The project will provide for a reinvention of the game-day atmosphere at Commonwealth and will be paid for entirely by the athletics department. Funding the improvement will be made possible by the 16-20 suites and approximately 2,000 club seats to be added. Capilouto reported that there is already a waiting list for this new premium seating.
Construction will begin this year and is estimated to be complete by July 2015. When all is said and done, Commonwealth's current capacity of 67,942 will be maintained or slightly reduced while the value of all remaining seats will be enhanced. This will be accomplished by improving concessions, restrooms and security.
Other planned additions through the project include a multi-purpose recruiting room, new home team and press facilities, a team store and a new full-service kitchen. At the Nutter Training Center - the hub of UK football - upgrades will be made "for the daily benefit" of student-athletes.
"This important measure is possible because of the leadership of our athletics director, Mitch Barnhart, and his commitment to running a highly successful program that is financially self-sustaining, that gives back to the institution, and that always places integrity first," Capilouto said.
Not only will UK Athletics fund the Commonwealth and Nutter renovations that are vital to the health of the football program, Capilouto also announced on Thursday that the athletics department will play a key role in the construction of the new Academic Science Building. UK Athletics will fund $65 million of the estimated $100-million project.
"We will do something very few universities in this country have done ― utilize the incredible brand that is our athletics program to help fund their needed facilities improvements and also one of our most important academic facilities," Capilouto said. "Our current science building is the second-most utilized classroom space on campus. It is outdated and contains neither the classroom nor research space we need. This will change that."
Big news on Thursday as a plan to transform the University of Kentucky campus was announced by President Eli Capilouto with support from legislators. The projects include $110-million renovations to Commonwealth Stadium and the Nutter Training Facility. For more on that, check out this post on UKnow, watch the video below visit BBNunited.com.
Beginning this week, the K Fund has a brand new online presence.
On Tuesday, the K Fund - the fundraising arm of UK Athletics - announced a redesign of its website, KFundonline.com, developed in conjunction with assistant director of media relations Pete Camagna. In the past, the K Fund's site has functioned as a part of UKathletics.com and used the same layout. With the new website, the K Fund remains integrated into UKathletics.com, but with a customized look and feel.
The changes were made to enhance the website's interface and make it more user-friendly, but the driving purpose behind everything the K Fund does remains the same. The K Fund always has been and will continue to be dedicated to providing the resources necessary for UK student-athletes to pursue excellence on the field of competition and in the classroom.
Without the loyal fans and friends that invest in the K Fund, a memorable 2012 that included a men's basketball national championship, the hiring of Mark Stoops as football coach, the construction and renovation of several facilities and multiple postseason berths would not have been possible.
Donations to the K Fund through Annual and Capital funds are used to provide student-athlete scholarships, including tuition, room and board; academic support and career development; athletic facility maintenance, renovation and construction; and coaches and administrative support.
Each year, supporting 340 student-athlete scholarships becomes a more costly endeavor. The average cost including tuition and fees, room, meals and books for in-state student-athletes is $20,808 and $30,989 for out-of-state Wildcats. Thanks to general donations and donations associated with season-ticket purchases, the K Fund is able to help provide for the broadest athletic program in the Southeastern Conference, one that operates self-sufficiently without any state or university funds.
The best place to learn more about how to follow the directive of the K Fund and "Invest in Blue" is to visit KFundonline.com and follow the K Fund on Twitter @UK_KFund.
In the words of the Athletics Director himself, Kentucky student-athletes came "dangerously close" to Mitch Barnhart's goal of a 3.0 department-wide grade-point average each of the past two semesters.
This fall, UK surged past that threshold.
During a semester in which UK was just one of three programs nationally to earn the right to host first-round NCAA Tournament games in women's soccer, men's soccer and volleyball, competing scholarship student-athletes attained an average GPA of 3.030. The GPA for all competing student-athletes, including those not on scholarship, was 3.034.
"I see how hard our student-athletes work every day and this is the result," Barnhart said. "I am proud of the commitment our young people and coaches have made to academics. Education is one of the pillars of our program and I want to thank CATS and our entire support staff for taking that to heart." ***See below for complete grade information for each sport***
Counting competing scholarship student-athletes only, 17 of the department's 20 teams topped a 3.0 GPA, led by the women's tennis team at 3.842. Two more teams had cumulative GPAs of 3.6 or better: women's cross country (3.608) and women's golf (3.604). Men's tennis led all men's teams with a GPA of 3.210.
Among teams that hosted the NCAA Tournament this fall, women's soccer (3.103) and volleyball (3.093) achieved GPAs of better than 3.0. In total, 10 of the 13 teams that participated in regular-season play during the fall semester had GPAs better than 3.0, including men's basketball. Featuring yet another group of freshmen ranked as the nation's top recruiting class, John Calipari's Wildcats had a team GPA of 3.066.
Looking at individual GPAs, UK student-athletes' work this fall is equally impressive. More than half the student-athlete population - 273 Wildcats - had GPAs of 3.0 or better, while 54 student-athletes had perfect 4.0 GPAs.
The work, however, is far from done. Barnhart has said all along that his goal is to maintain a 3.0 department-wide GPA for a full academic year. UK will be pursuing that goal and more in a continuing effort to prove that excellence in competition and in the classroom can go hand-in-hand.
Unless otherwise noted, all listed GPAs are for competing scholarship student-athletes.
It touches on Kentucky's success in competition, but the piece centers more on how the department seeks to help its student-athletes develop as people. Here's an excerpt:
Barnhart has led the Kentucky Wildcats since 2002, having previously served in a similar capacity with Oregon State University from 1998 to 2002. His experience running major collegiate athletic programs at the NCAA Division I level has shown him how athletic programs can act as a major part of the educational experience, even during an era when it is more difficult than ever for student-athletes to balance their competitive commitments with the academic and social demands of today's world.
"Balancing that dynamic as an 18- to 22-year-old is very difficult," Barnhart says. "I believe that we are chasing a culture that is difficult to catch, because the rules of society and technology change so fast and can become detrimental to relationships. We concentrate on making sure our coaches have everyday relationships with our kids and know what is going on in their lives. That day-to-day relationship is where the real teaching begins."
There can be no denying the success the University of Kentucky has experienced on the field of play. It is a founding member of the Southeastern Conference, and its men's soccer team competes in Conference USA. The university has won eight men's basketball NCAA titles (most recently in 2012), as well as winning national titles in football and women's cross-country and rifle, not to mention a cheerleading squad that has won 19 national titles.
With all the competitive success, it is easy for the public eye to wander from the fact that the vast majority of Kentucky Wildcats will never earn a dime as professional athletes. Therefore, the athletic department puts as much emphasis on academic success as it does on wins.
"We have almost 500 student-athletes, and most of our kids know they won't play professionally," Barnhart says. "When I got here, the athletic department's graduation rate was around 40 percent, and now we are in the 60 percent range. We have made progress, but we want to be better."
Kentucky is one of three schools to rank in the top five nationally in both Facebook "likes" and Twitter followers. UK is fifth in both categories, coming in with 657,772 fans on Facebook and 47,166 Twitter followers at last count. UK is also 21st in YouTube channel subscriptions even though the Sports Video department only recently began using it as a primary means to distribute content.
Of course, we have you, the fans to thank for this. We try to be on the forefront of social media technology, but we know all those efforts would be in vain if not for you.
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