Boasting a No. 23 ranking, the program's highest since 2007, Kentucky gymnastics opens its season on Saturday. The Wildcats will host Oklahoma, Bowling Green State and Wisconsin-Oshkosh at 6 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum for Excite Night at the Kentucky Classic.
UK will be led by head coach Tim Garrison, who is in his first season as head coach following a successful tenure as an assistant at Nebraska. Garrison will rely on a pair of senior co-captains in Storey Morris and Whitney Rose to anchor his first Kentucky team. The two have combined to win 21 individual event titles in their careers as Wildcats.
Garrison and the Wildcats won't have to wait long to be sternly tested this season, as the visiting Oklahoma Sooners are ranked in the top five in the preseason GymInfo Preseason Coaches' Poll.
Tickets to the event are available by calling the UK Ticket Office at (859) 257-1818 or toll free at 1-800-928-2287. Fans in attendance will have numerous chances to win prizes, including a family four pack of tickets to see Shrek the Musical on Feb. 19. Junior Wildcat Club members who show their badge will receive free admission to the event and a special gift. After the meet, the entire team will sign autographs.
Men's basketball - The Wildcats open the 2012 calendar year, playing their annual game at Freedom Hall Tuesday night, hosting the Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans. - UK closed out 2011 riding a career-game from freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, to a 69-62 win over in-state rival Louisville. - Kidd-Gilchrist tallied his second-career double-double with 24 points and 19 rebounds, both career-highs and was named the Bluegrass Sports Commission MVP of the game for his efforts. - Anthony Davis also tallied a double-double, his seventh, with 18 points and 10 rebounds to go along with six blocked shots. Women's basketball - Kentucky bounced back from a tough road loss at Middle Tennessee after the holiday break by capturing a hard-fought 59-56 win at Florida on Sunday in the SEC opener. It marked UK's first SEC-opening win since 2008 and its third-straight win over Florida. - Junior guard A'dia Mathies, who scored a team-high 14 points, was crucial to the Wildcats' win over the Gators. With UK trailing by two in the first half, Mathies nailed back-to-back 3-pointers, grabbed a rebound and took a charge in the final 60 seconds to give Kentucky a four-point halftime lead, and the Cats would never trail again. - Freshman guard Bria Goss also was a key catalyst as she scored 11 points all in the first half and added four rebounds and two steals. Goss has now scored in double figures in 12 of 14 career games, including six in a row. - Sophomore Samarie Walker added eight points and seven rebounds in her first SEC contest. - The Wildcats return to Memorial Coliseum on Thursday, Jan. 5 against Arkansas in the first of three consecutive SEC home games.
Tuesday, Jan. 3 Men's basketball vs. Arkansas-Little Rock - 7:00 p.m. (Louisville, Ky.) Men's tennis at Hawaii Warrior Invitational
Wednesday, Jan. 4 Men's tennis at Hawaii Warrior Invitational
Thursday, Jan. 5 Women's basketball hosts Arkansas - 6:00 p.m. Men's tennis at Hawaii Warrior Invitational
Friday, Jan. 6 Men's tennis at Hawaii Warrior Invitational Saturday, Jan. 7 Men's basketball hosts South Carolina - 4:00 p.m. Gymnastics hosts Oklahoma/Wisconsin-Oshkosh/Bowling Green - 5:30 p.m. Men's tennis at Hawaii Warrior Invitational
Sunday, Jan. 8 Women's basketball hosts Mississippi State -3:30 p.m. Men's tennis at Hawaii Warrior Invitational
First, he sat down with UK baseball head coach Gary Henderson for a series of questions and answers. In it, Henderson talked about the fall, playing in the nation's toughest conference and some of his players' success in summer leagues. Make sure to read the full Q&A, but here are a couple highlights:
SEC Digital Network: What do you believe your strengths of your team this upcoming year?
Gary Henderson: "I think it's early, but I'm really hopeful that infield defense and depth on the mound are going to be some things that we can rely on. We're going to hit again, that part's pretty clear. We knew that coming in that we were going to have another good offensive club. How good, you don't know; just exactly how well balanced you're going to be, you don't know, because some of the younger guys have got to prove it first. We'll be another good offensive club, as are most clubs in our league and then it comes down to how well you play infield defense and how much pitching depth you have. It always comes down to that."
SEC Digital Network: What do you feel are the unique strengths of the University of Kentucky that benefit your baseball program? Gary Henderson: "Kids love to go to school here. Lexington is a great town; we would argue that it's the best town in the league and there are some people that would agree with us. It's a great place to go to school. The academic experience that our kids have here on campus is second to none. We love the town. [Athletics director] Mitch's [Barnhart] commitment to an overall department is fantastic and there is a tremendous sense of community and a tremendous sense of being a Wildcat on campus."
SEC Digital Network: How much does the support that you receive from your administration help your program moving forward?
Tim Garrison: "The support from our administration is unparalleled from what I've seen and from what I've heard from talking to other people. When you've got our athletic director and associate athletic directors coming into the gym to watch workouts, and come to our competitions, they are willing to give us everything we need to be successful and they've said that. The support is unreal."
SEC Digital Network: You still have a few months before your season begins in January, but how much excitement do you sense there is on your team for the start of competition?
Tim Garrison: "I don't think they know how excited they should be right now because they're in the grind, they're in the trenches of working hard. They're tired, they're sore and I think they've got a little bit of blinders on at this point because, right now, they're all those things and they don't see the product. They don't see the finish line just yet, which is great. The thing is, we're throwing curve balls at them all the time; they're going to be so ready for competition that I really think them understanding exactly where we're headed and what we're going to do is huge. When they get in a facility where there's 10,000 people watching and there's pressure and we're trying to qualify for something or beat a team that just opened the door for us, we're going to be able to do that. We're going to be able to walk right through that door."
Former UK gymnast Jenny Hansen is the only woman to win three straight NCAA all-around title (1993-95). She also captures NCAA titles on the balance beam (1994, 1995), vault (1994, 1995) and floor exercise (1995). (UK Athletics)
"Where are they now" is a weekly six-part summer series that will
take a look back at the careers of former Kentucky athletes and find out
what they're doing post-UK. Today we will catch up with record-setting gymnast Jenny Hansen.
To call Jenny Hansen's career as a gymnast at the University of Kentucky "decorated" would be a gross understatement. Running down a list of her achievements is mind-boggling in and of itself.
Eight NCAA gymnastics championship titles. A record three straight all-around titles from 1993 to 1995. Thirteen All-America honors. Kentucky Sportsman of the Year in 1995. Most outstanding gymnast of the past 25 years as recognized by the NCAA.
Simply put, she's still the greatest gymnast in program history and one of the best student-athletes to don UK's colors.
For Hansen, though, the honors that meant the most were her inductions into the hall of fames for both UK and the state of Kentucky. Being recognized alongside fellow inductees like Pat Riley, Allan Houston, Tim Couch and Hillerich & Bradsby (the makers of Louisville Slugger baseball bats) was an experience that stopped Hansen in her tracks.
"It's kind of surreal," Hansen said. "I think of myself as Jenny Hansen. I'm Jen. I'm Hansen. I'm just me. I've been given this amazing gift and this incredible talent to be able to do what I can do. For the University of Kentucky and the state of Kentucky to recognize me and put me in their hall of fame, I was just blown away. There are no words really to explain it."
Humility and self-awareness are traits that we look for in athletes, but finding them in genuine form is often a tall task. With Hansen, they are unmistakable. She recognizes that the natural talent that she has been blessed with is a gift; a gift that has taken her places she could not possibly have foreseen; a gift that she believes she is responsible for stewarding and continuing to share with others.
It's that kind of attitude that has brought Hansen back to the place that made her a hall of famer: the gym. Her return started out as a foray into the world of television when a friend called her while Hansen was living and working in North Dakota.
"Two years ago, one of my best friends is a stunt woman, she called me up when I was living in North Dakota and she said, 'You need to train again, there's a show,' " Hansen said.
The cable television channel ABC Family was beginning filming on a new show that needed skilled gymnasts. Hansen picked up and moved to Simi Valley, Calif., for the new gig.
"I started training for this show called 'Make It or Break It,' " Hansen said. "It's an ABC Family show and it's about four girls that are trying to make the Olympics in gymnastics. They needed gymnasts and I ended up being a gymnastics double on the show and then I did background work and things like that."
Hansen had not seriously trained for a while, but the competitive fire that still burned inside of her responded in a way that she didn't foresee. She took her workouts "to the highest level" and found that her substantial talents had not yet been lost to the hands of time. Production on the second season of the show wrapped in December, but Hansen was not willing to end things there.
In fact, she has even higher aspirations. More than 15 years removed from her final season at UK, Hansen is trying to re-enter the elite level of gymnastics competition.
"That was for two years and at the end of December, we just finished up season two and during that time I guess I just started feeling like I wanted to continue on and keep working on it," Hansen said. "My ultimate goal would be to get to the Olympics but my current goal is just to try to get on the national team."
Of all sports, gymnastics is one that perhaps belongs most to the young. The roster of the United States national team for the 2008 Beijing Olympics included three 16-year-old gymnasts, one 18-year-old and two 20-year-olds. For perspective, Hansen was in college in the mid 1990s.
Hansen recognizes the challenge in front of her and embraces it. She is just a couple weeks away from the next milestone in her comeback. She will be participating in an elite qualifier on July 2 in Houston and there are two more meets on the horizon if things go according to plan.
"If I get the qualifying score, I'll get to go to the Cover Girl Classic and that's in Chicago," Hansen said. "In Chicago, hopefully I'll get the qualifying score to go to the Visa Championships in St. Paul (Minn.). This year that's my ultimate goal."
Hansen has learned the hard way that there is a reason why youth is favored in gymnastics, but the journey has been enjoyable nonetheless.
"There are a few little injuries that pop up, so I've had to back off my training a little bit, then I go back to it," Hansen said. "It's frustrating, but at the same time it's so much fun."
Naturally, Hansen is the type of athlete that will push herself to the brink in her preparation, even if the odds tell her that her chances of succeeding are extremely slim. Being more advanced in age than the last time she competed, Hansen has learned how to listen to what her own body is saying.
"It's taken a bit for me to listen to my body and what it needs," Hansen said. "I just can't stop and not work and everything is going to start piling up. It's my responsibility, as an adult, to keep myself afloat."
Also helping in her efforts is her sister, who serves as her coach for meets.
"I was talking to my middle sister who was on the national team in 1986 or 1987," Hansen said, "and I said, 'I don't know what to do. I don't have a coach and I have to go to this meet.' And she said, 'I'll be your coach.' She registered with USA Gymnastics. She got her coaching registration, she got all of this stuff and at the meets, she's my coach. It's really great."
While Hansen calls training her "full-time job," she still spends time as a personal trainer for a few clients and as a coach at her gym in California.
"I do a little personal training on the side, since out here you have to do everything," Hansen said. "I do a little personal training; I just have three clients. They're so much fun and I love working with them. I incorporate the gymnastics that I know and the things that I'm learning now. It's fun. I like encouraging these women. I also coach at the gym that I train at, only two days a week."
Once her gymnastics career reaches a conclusion, Hansen isn't willing to restrict herself to a single profession. Rest assured, though, she'll be using her talents and background as a gymnast, whether as a stunt woman, a trainer or a coach.
"That's my ultimate goal, to stay in the stunt world," Hansen said. "I would really like to do personal training and motivate people and maybe even motivate kids just to have fun in the sports that they do. There's so many things that I love doing and I want to stay in everything. I don't want to have just one occupation."
Whatever the future holds, much of Hansen's foundation was established during her time at the University of Kentucky. Though it was two decades ago, Hansen still looks back at her college experience fondly, from competition to academics to social life.
"An amazing experience," Hansen said. "I can't say enough about (then-UK head coach) Leah Little and (assistant coach) Tim Myers. I loved UK. I loved the college experience, I loved my roommates."
Hansen was especially full of praise for the athletic training staff during her time at UK, as well as her professors and classmates that she got to know as she worked toward her degree in animal science equine. Hansen had to cope with dyslexia as a student and said that without the support and tutoring at Kentucky's Center for Academic and Tutorial Services, her success in school would not have been possible.
"The CATS program was amazing," Hansen said. "Mike Haley, he was my adviser and he was the best. I would ask Mike what classes I should take and he was like, 'OK, Hansen, this is what you're going to do.' Being a student-athlete, you're so focused on (sports) that it was nice to have that CATS program to help you through so many difficulties, especially because I am dyslexic. That was a big help in my school."
Hansen has had the chance to briefly introduce herself to UK's newly-minted gymnastics head coach Tim Garrison and had a very positive impression about where he will take the program. She said that she was impressed by the work Garrison did with a gymnastics team in California close to Hansen's home.
"He was really great," Hansen said. "It's crazy that he's only the third coach at UK. I wish him success. I saw that he coached out here and he got a couple girls to nationals and things."
Little, Hansen's coach at UK, was largely responsible for the founding of the gymnastics program at the school. If there is one thing about Little that Hansen hopes Garrison can duplicate, it is the infusion of a spirit of fun into training and competition.
"I hope he keeps it fun for the girls," Hansen said. "That's what Leah was so wonderful at. She pushed us, but she let us enjoy our college experience. If we had problems, she would talk to us. There were times when I would just need a hug and she said OK and it was always such a heartfelt hug. She was right there with us. When we were crying, she would try to console us."
Move over Tonys. Take a backseat Oscars. The Scratchies (again, not a skin disease) are back.
I know it's been an unbearably long and grueling six-month wait since we introduced the Scratchies, but fear no more, it's time to introduce the 2011 spring semester winners.
Not to be confused with ESPN's Herbie Awards or UK's end-of-the-year CATSPY Awards - although I must confess, many award winners will repeat the CATSPYs - the Scratchies offer no actual hardware or glitzy awards show. Instead, these honorees have earned the appreciation of a lowly blogger trying to pass the beginning weeks of a long offseason.
A couple of the award names have changed, but the objective is the same - to look back at another semester of UK Athletics. Remember, these award winners only constitute the spring semester of UK Athletics action. The fall winners can be found here.
Please feel free to disagree and comment on who you think should have won in the comments section below. Keep in mind, this is all for fun.
Without further ado, here are the semiannual Scratchies:
MVW (Most Valuable Wildcat) Brandon Knight, men's basketball - There were a lot of candidates for this semester's awards. There is Eric Quigley, who guided the men's tennis team to a national quarterfinals berth and finished the season ranked No. 7 in the nation. There is Megan Yocke, the heart and soul of the record-setting softball team. And let's not forget about Ethan Settlemires' clutch performance in the rifle national championship. But it's hard to ignore what Knight did in this year's NCAA Tournament. Knight's dramatic game winners against Princeton and Ohio State were the highlights of a Final Four run that fans will never forget. Stepping into the gargantuan shoes of John Wall and the sensational freshman class of 2009-10, Knight and the 2010-11 team proved it could play a little basketball as well. Next week, Knight is expected to be a top-five pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Honorable mention: Megan Yocke (softball), Eric Quigley (men's tennis), Ethan Settlemires (rifle), Victoria Dunlap (women's basketball)
The Dream Team (team of the semester) Rifle - Much like the previous award, this could have gone to a number of squads, including the men's basketball, men's tennis and softball teams. But the rifle team won a national championship. You know, that ultimate goal that every team sets out for at the beginning of the year that only a select few ever win. Ethan Settlemires didn't know it at the time, but his last shot in air rifle - the final shot of the match - would determine the national championship. Settlemires needed at least an 8.0 to capture the elusive title. The junior came through in the clutch with a 10.7, winning the program's first national championship. Honorable mention: Men's basketball, men's tennis, softball
Harry Mullins has been the one constant staple in the success of the UK rifle program over the last three decades. (UK Athletics)
The Adolph Rupp Award (coach of the semester) Harry Mullins, rifle - As sweet as that rifle national championship was, it was even sweeter for Mullins, the longtime coach and most important figure in program history. Since 1982, Mullins and the UK rifle team have been one in the same. In his journey from a former student-athlete to a part-time coach to the symbol of the program, Mullins has taken the rifle team from its infant stages and built it into one of the nation's top programs. Year after year, Mullins and the rifle team came agonizingly close to winning the whole thing, only to fall short with seven top-three finishes. Whether it was by a string of fate or pure coincidence, Mullins finally won that coveted national title in the same town where his late father served as a sergeant in the military and raised his family. Honorable mention: Rachel Lawson (softball), John Calipari (men's basketball), Dennis Emery (men's tennis)
The Josh Harrellson Award (most improved player) Josh Harrellson, men's basketball - Harrellson's turnaround his senior year was so significant and so inspiring that we've renamed the award after him. Before this year, Harrellson had played a total of 403 minutes and scored 151 points for Kentucky. By the end of his senior year, Harrellson had transformed himself into the nation's most improved player and one of the best big men in the NCAA Tournament. Transforming his body and work ethic after the legendary tweet about his head coach, Harrellson went on to average 7.6 points and 8.7 rebounds this year, including an 11.0 scoring average in the NCAA Tournament against some of the nation's top post players. Harrellson's spirit and leadership were just as valuable to the team's Final Four run as his presence in the paint and unpredictable production. Harrellson's storybook season will be remembered decades from now. Honorable mention: Alex Musialek (men's tennis), Meagan Aull (softball), Samantha DeMartine (softball)
The Butler-VCU Award (surprise team) Women's golf - In her first year as head coach, Golda Johansson Borst wasn't expected to do much with the Kentucky women's golf team. After all, the program had been to just one NCAA Tournament since 2000. But with just one senior on the team and a wealth of midseason injuries, including two to the top two players, Ashleigh Albrecht and Betsie Johnson, UK returned to the NCAA Tournament for the 16th time in school history. With most of the team returning next year, the future is bright for women's golf. Honorable mention: softball
One Shining Moment (best moment) Annie Rowlands and Meagan Aull's hits send softball to Supers - The Kentucky softball team went to its third straight regional appearance with bigger expectations and higher hopes. The coaches and players talked about making it to their first Super Regional in program history, but as the third-ranked team in the Ann Arbor Regional and with the second-ranked team in the nation in the same regional, the reality of advancing was pretty slim. And yet, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, with one win over No. 2 Michigan standing in the way of a historic march, Kentucky entered the bottom of the seventh trailing 1-0. With Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Jordan Taylor dealing a gem and the nation watching on ESPN, Meagan Aull belted a changeup over the fence in right field to tie the game. Five batters later, with one out and the bases loaded, senior Annie Rowlands, a sub-.150 hitter, came through with the biggest hit in program history, a game-winning single over the first baseman's head. The RBI bloop advanced UK to its first Super Regional, which the school would go on to host. Honorable mention: Brandon Knight's game-winning layup vs. Princeton; Knight's game-winning shot vs. Ohio State; Ethan Settlemires' winning shot to capture the national championship; Alex Musialek's match-clinching win vs. Louisville; gymnast Andre Mitchell's 39.550 score in the all-around, UK's highest score in 15 years
The "Band is Out On the Field" Award (best game/match) Men's tennis vs. Louisville in the NCAA Tournament - What happens when you combine your archrival with postseason play? You get some edge-of-your-seat theater. That's what the Kentucky-Louisville men's tennis match brought in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. After UK grabbed the doubles point, the singles matches went back and forth in front of a raucous crowd at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex. Every 10 minutes it looked like the match was going to go a different way. With Kentucky holding a 3-2 lead and courts No. 1 and No. 2 split in a 1-1 tie, everyone raced to the center courts to watch the decisive matches. Eric Quigley, UK's top player, dropped his match in three thrilling sets to tie the match 3-3. Moments later, though, after dropping the first set 5-7, Alex Musialek won the third set in dominating fashion, 6-0, to clinch the match and send UK to the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive year. Honorable mention: softball's win over Michigan in the regional finals; men's basketball's upset of No. 1 Ohio State
Brandon Knight hit a game-winning jumper over Ohio State's Aaron Craft with seconds remaining to send UK to the Elite Eight and eventually its first Final Four since 1998. (photo by Chet White, UK Athletics)
The Doug Flutie Hail Mary Award (best play) Brandon Knight's game-winning jumper vs. Ohio State - Once again, there was plenty to choose from, but Knight gets the nod on this one given the magnitude of the situation. Against the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament and with the game tied 60-60, Knight pulled up from just inside the arc and drilled a jumper with five seconds left to send Kentucky to the Elite Eight and eventually the Final Four. For a team that failed to close during the regular season, it was an unforgettable moment in an unbelievable season. Honorable mention: Brandon Knight's game-winning layup vs. Princeton; Ethan Settlemires' winning shot to capture the national championship; Brittany Henderson's game-winning layup vs. LSU
The Jimmer Fredette Award (breakthrough player) Alex Meyer, baseball - Alex Meyer's first two years in the at UK were defined by potential and upside. In 2011, Meyer broke through with the type of year that everyone expected years earlier when Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein showed up on his doorstep at the end of Meyer's high school career with a lucrative multi-million dollar contract. Meyer, with big-league stuff, finished the year as the Southeastern Conference leader in strikeouts, complete games and complete-game shutouts. Two weeks ago, Meyer was selected by the Washington Nationals with the 23rd overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, UK's highest draft pick since Joe Blanton went No. 24 in 2002. Honorable mention: Meagan Aull (softball), Greg Ferrucci (swimming and diving)
All-Calipari Team (all-freshman team) Greg Ferrucci, swimming and diving - Named SEC Male Freshman Diver of the Year and advanced to the NCAA Championships Terrence Jones, men's basketball - Tabbed SEC Freshmanof the Year after averaging 17.3 points and 8.8 rebounds in his first year Doron Lamb, men's basketball - Not to be overshadowed by Knight and Jones, Lamb averaged 12.3 points, hit a team-high 38 3-pointers and poured in a then-freshman record 32 points in December Emily Holsopple, rifle - Appeared on the fall semester's list, but she certainly qualifies again after earning first-team All-America accolades and winning a national championship Bernisha Pinkett, women's basketball - On a team with talented freshmen, averaged 7.0 points in just 18.7 minutes of action
All-Up-and-Comers (non-freshmen on the rise) Jessica Stiles, women's tennis - Led a rebuilding women's tennis program with 11 wins Darius Miller, men's basketball - Came on late in the season to win SEC Tournament MVP Chanda Bell, softball - UK's all-time strikeout leader will enter her senior season as one of the top pitchers in the nation Thomas McCarthy, baseball - Ranked third in the SEC with .371 batting average, including 19 doubles and 39 RBI Brittany Cervantes, softball - UK's career home-run leader will be the centerpiece of next year's offense
All-Wildcat Team (the Scratchies equivalent of the All-America Team) Brandon Knight, men's basketball - Replaced No. 1 overall pick John Wall by averaging 17.3 points and leading UK to the Final Four, plus first-team Freshman All-America honors Victoria Dunlap, women's basketball - Program's No. 2 all-time scorer led the team to its second straight NCAA Tournament appearance and became the highest WNBA draft pick in school history Eric Quigley, men's tennis - The nation's No. 7 player finished the year with a school-record-tying 45 wins Megan Yocke, softball - Heart and soul of record-setting softball team became just the second player in school history to earn All-SEC accolades all four years Colin Boevers, track and field - Won the SEC discus title and was one of nine student-athletes to advance to NCAA Outdoor Championships
All-Rex Ryan Team (when you need a sound bite, these are your go-to guys) Josh Harrellson, men's basketball John Calipari, men's basketball Matthew Mitchell, women's basketball Harry Mullins, rifle Amber Smith, women's basketball
Stacey Eden of the UK track and field team (second from the left) confessed that he's owned the jacket he wore to the 2011 CATSPY Awards since middle school. (photo by Chet White, UK Athletics)
The Craig Sager Award (best/worst dressed) Stacey Eden, track and field - Depending on your taste in style, Stacey Eden of the track and field team was either the best dressed of the year or the worst. One thing is for certain: he caught people's eyes at this year CATSPY Awards. Eden (pictured to the right) attended the annual end-of-the-year awards show with a shiny gold suit, a patterned button-up, blue bowtie and sunglasses. Top that, Craig Sager
The Streak (strangest stat or streak) Men's basketball in the clutch - Before the NCAA Tournament, the Cats couldn't hit a shot to save their lives. UK entered the tournament 1-6 in games decided by five points or less, which included missed last-second shots that could have won or tied the game against Florida, Arkansas and Ole Miss. But when the season was on the line and the stakes mattered most, Kentucky - particularly Knight - came through with game-winning shots against Princeton and Ohio State.
She said what? (quote of the semester) Rachel Lawson, fighting back tears after losing to Cal in the Lexington Super Regional - "I feel really good about the future of the program. But I feel best about the fact that this group was - nobody thought they could win. I love (Samantha) DeMartine and (Meagan) Aull, (Megan) Yocke's OK. I know (Annie) Rowlands, for her to be able to come up with that big hit. I wanted them to go to the World Series. So far I'm the only one who's been there and I'm tired of having the upper hand on them."
The Best Dougie (best dance/celebration) Jarrod Polson, men's basketball - In 2009-10, the John Wall Dance was the unofficial celebration of the Wildcats. This past year it was, without question, The Dougie, a dance made famous (or infamous) by Matthew Mitchell at Big Blue Madness. Jarrod Polson continued the craze on national TV after Kentucky defeated North Carolina and advanced to the Final Four. Check out his rendition below.
Tim Garrison, an assistant coach at Nebraska, has been named the new head coach of the Kentucky gymnastics team. UK announced the hiring Thursday.
Garrison comes to Kentucky after five years at Nebraska, where he helped the Cornhuskers annually compete for national championships as the Huskers' vault, floor exercise, and strength and conditioning coach. The program went to two NCAA Super Six appearances and won two Big 12 Conference championships with Garrison on board.
Fans can read the full release of Garrison's hiring here.
Cat Scratches had the chance to talk with Garrison on Thursday about the hiring process, his coaching philosophy and his vision for the UK gymnastics team. Here is the Q and A from the interview:
Question: This is your first opportunity as a head coach on the collegiate level. Can you talk about the opportunity you have been given to fulfill a dream I'm sure you've had for quite some time? Garrison: I am extremely excited. I was a head coach for a club program out in California for 10 years, but when you move to college, you are in a completely different arena. Getting to be at Nebraska and spend some time there under head coach Dan Kendig was an amazing opportunity, but I am excited to put my name on a program like Kentucky and make it grow.
Question: How did you initially get into coaching and when did you know you wanted to do this for a living? Garrison: I just started coaching just like most gymnastics coaches, with a club team. That's how I initially got into it. I went to Cal State Fullerton and I was a part of their men's program as an athlete. After my first year, they actually dropped the program. They had a women's collegiate program and the head coach knew that I had coached before. I was currently coaching a club team and so he asked me if I wanted to come coach with him, and so I ended up coaching there. I had two years of coaching experience there and I then went on to pursue the dream of coaching elite talent. I did that for 12 years, and then on to Nebraska I went.
Question: What did you know about Kentucky before you decided to pursue the job? Garrison: Well, I have a friend who works there in (current assistant coach) Chuck Dickerson. He is a good buddy of mine and he has just praised this program and athletic department as being a great family. It seems like everybody is pulling for each other and that is a great feeling to have. Not only that, but being in the SEC as well. The SEC is the best gymnastics conference in the country. There are a lot of great teams out there, but when you look at the conferences, top to bottom, it's the best conference there is. To be able to get a head coaching job in that conference is really exciting.
Question: Can you explain the process a little bit of deciding to pursue the job and when you became interested in it? Garrison: Obviously, in October, there were some changes made and it was clear that there was going to be a new head coach hired. Going through the year, having the success that we have had (at Nebraska), it actually took me a while to decide. I really wanted to be a head coach, there is no doubt about it. It was just the when and the where. Having great success at Nebraska had a great role in it. The more I thought about it, the more I told myself I was going to go for this job and do my best to get it.
Question: I'm sure a big part of the decision was leaving Nebraska. How tough was it leaving a place you've called home for some time? Garrison: You develop relationships with people in the department, you develop relationships with people in the community and you develop relationships with athletes. It's tough. When I had to say goodbye, that was a tough day, and it worried me a bit. But you look ahead and move forward. I am really excited about the future of this program. We are going to get these athletes excited. We are going to go to competitions and we want them to know that they are going to come out successful. That for me made it easier to look ahead and see what we can achieve.
Question: Have you met with the team, and if so, what have you told them? Garrison: I have not since I was hired. I have scheduled meetings with all of them after their finals, that way I can get a direction of the team, what the framework will be like, how I will be in the gym, how I expect them to be in the gym and some of the goals. There is going to be a lot of changes. We will get them on board and we will get them to see the benefit of the changes that will be made.
Question: When you get back to Lexington, do you have some sort of plan of how you want to start things and build? Garrison: I will get into town next Tuesday. It will be more than likely next Thursday or next Friday when we will have our block meetings with each athlete individually, get to know them a little bit and kind of outline where we are headed. I have a good idea of how we are going to get started. From there it will be day-to-day in the maintenance. I have a plan as far as strength and conditioning and what is to be expected. We can't require them to do anything, but I can tell them what will be required when they come back to school and where we are going to go from there. Yes, there will be a plan in place. I will suggest things to them to get ready for next year. I think they are ready to go to work, and from what I understand, they are a very motivated group.
Question: You've mentioned that you want to take Kentucky to the next step. How exactly do you do that? Garrison: Once you get a framework in place and you raise the expectations of the athletes themselves, we will work hard to get to where we want to be at. We will train every day and stay healthy. All of those things are going to happen, that way when we walk into competitive environments, we are confident. Success breeds motivation. Once you get a little success going, you start to get wins against some SEC teams that we are going to be seeing. That's how you take those steps. I'm not saying it's going to happen overnight. To be able to move up in the ranks is going to take some time, but I feel we are capable of doing it. We will be very diligent and smart and we will be successful.
Question: You were obviously at a national championship competing program at Nebraska. Can you take any of that experience there and use it here? Garrison: It all goes back to expectation level. When you walk into a program like Nebraska, you look through the media guides and you look up at the walls of all the national champions. You see this many trips to nationals and all of the conference titles. There is a certain expectation level. You walk into the gym and you say, 'I have to raise my expectation level.' I plan on changing our expectation level. I want them to know, regardless of the competition level, that we have a shot at them. When we get on that bus after a meet, I want them happy. I want them excited because they just did awesome; they just did their best. I think it really comes down to expectation level. We need to get a good coaching staff that is pulling everyone in the right direction. We need to have quality planning and good athletes. If we can have the right mixture of those things, we can turn this thing around and make it successful. It will take a little time, it will take a little recruiting, but we can get it done.
Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, April 3:
Kentucky Gymnastics team
Behind a season-high score on balance beam of 48.9, the University of Kentucky gymnastics team posted its highest team score at a NCAA Regional in school history with a 195.175 in a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional on Saturday. Kentucky's team score at the meet surpassed its previous NCAA Regional high mark of 195.150, which helped UK earn a fourth-place finish in the 2001 NCAA Regional. The Wildcats had not scored a 195 team score of above since the 2001 season. The Wildcats were impressive on all four events at the meet but earned its highest event score on balance beam, posting a season-high score of 48.9. Junior Storey Morris led all UK gymnasts on the event with a 9.85, surpassing her career high of 9.825, while freshman Audrey Harrison scored a 9.8 for her highest career mark.
Softball: Meagan Aull
Senior Meagan Aull simply had the best weekend of her career in helping guide UK to it's first-ever sweep of No. 5 Florida. Aull was 5-for-10 at the dish with all five hits coming in the extra-base magnitude. Aull entered the series with just six career homers and blasted four in three games against the Gators in leading UK to just the second series win in school history over Florida.
Aull connected with a three-run long ball to help propel UK to a run-rule in the opening game of the series. She then led off the second game of the series by taking the first offering of the bottom of the first over the center-field fence. It marked the first time in her career she had back-to-back games with a homer. Aull then proved to be a difference maker late in the game with an RBI double that led to a four-run inning for UK to recapture the lead en route to a 7-6 win to take the series.
Finally, in the last game of the series, Aull blasted a leadoff homer for the second consecutive game to begin an eight-run charge for the Blue and White. After UK having batted all the way around the order, Aull came back to the plate in the bottom of the first with a runner on second and charted her second long ball of the game. It is the first time in her career she has totaled two homers in a single game and just the 15th time in school history the feat has been achieved. It is the first time in school history that a player hit two homers in the same inning.
With five hits this weekend, Aull moved into ninth place all-time with 184 career hits.
Aull has a hit in 23 of UK's last 25 games with hitting streaks of eight, 10 and a current five-game run. In 12 of those games Aull has multiple hits.
She currently leads the SEC with 20 hits in league action and ranks seventh with a .408 batting average.
Softball: Chanda Bell
Junior pitcher Chanda Bell helped catapult the Blue and White to a series sweep of No. 5 Florida. Bell was terrific in the opening game of the series working a complete-game effort and striking out 11 batters. It marked the 30th time in her career she has totaled 10 or more strikeouts in a game -- and the first against Florida.
With the win over the Gators it marked the first career victory over Florida and the second victory over a top-10 ranked opponent in the SEC this season.
In the final game of the series, Bell entered the game in relief and worked two innings allowing just one hit and striking out three to preserve the sweep. For the series, Bell worked 8.0 innings, allowed just six hits and struck out 14 to a Gator attack that entered the series batting .357 as a unit.
Bell has held SEC opponents to a staggering league-best .119 batting average and given up a league-low 15 hits. Angel Brunner of Auburn is the next closest with a .171 batting average. She ranks second behind Alabama's Kelsi Dunne with 63 strikeouts tossed, despite pitching 10 less innings than the league leader.
Softball: Emily Jolly
Freshman Emily Jolly put together the best SEC series of her young career in helping propel UK to a sweep of the Gators. The freshman second baseman totaled a .444 batting average on four hits and three runs scored. She totaled a pair of her team-best six doubles, including a two-run two-bagger in an eight-run opening inning in the final game of the series. Jolly was also masterful in the field recording a pair of putouts and three assists.
Men's tennis: Tom Jomby
With the match tied 3-3 and the final singles match in a decisive third-set tiebreaker, University of Kentucky freshman Tom Jomby earned arguably his biggest collegiate win of his young career by defeating Andrew Butz to give No. 14 Kentucky a 4-3 win over No. 15 Florida. With the win, Kentucky its first victory over the Gators since the 2002 season and its first win in Gainesville, Fla., since 1992 when Wildcats took down Florida in the NCAA Tournament. The Kentucky freshman fell in the first set 6-4 and trailed in the second set before turning the match around by fighting back to earn a second-set victory. In the third set, Jomby earned a quick break to go up 3-1 before Butz would respond to take a 5-4 lead. Jomby, who was named SEC Freshman of the Week two weeks ago, earned a key win behind 6-5 to send the set into a tiebreaker. After falling behind 2-0 in the breaker, Jomby turned up the pressure again en route to a 7-4 tiebreaker win, clinching the UK victory.
Men's basketball - Kentucky finishes its season at 29-9. - The Wildcats end the season having advanced to their 14th Final Four, while posting their 55th 20-win season and winning their 27th SEC Tournament title. - John Calipari is one of only two coaches to lead three different schools to the Final Four. - UK is now 105-46 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and is tied for first with the most NCAA Tournament wins. - The 75,421 fans in attendance for the UK-UConn game was an NCAA Final Four single-game record. - Junior Darius Miller hit a 3-pointer in 25 straight games to finish the season and connected from long range in 36 of 38 games this season. - Brandon Knight closed his rookie season with a UK freshman scoring record of 657 points, and 87 made 3s, also a UK freshman record.
Gymnastics - Behind a season-high score on balance beam of 48.9, the University of Kentucky gymnastics team posted its highest team score at a NCAA Regional in school history with a 195.175 in a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional in Coleman Coliseum at Tuscaloosa, Ala. - Kentucky's team score at the meet surpassed its previous NCAA Regional high mark of 195.150, which helped UK earn a fourth-place finish in the 2001 NCAA Regional. The Wildcats had not scored a 195 team score or above since the 2001 season. - The Wildcats were impressive on all four events at the meet, but earned its highest event score on balance beam, posting a season-high score of 48.9. Junior Storey Morris led all UK gymnasts on the event with a 9.85, surpassing her career high of 9.825, while freshman Audrey Harrison scored a 9.8 for her highest career mark.
Softball - Kentucky swept No. 5 Florida for the first time in school history to claim its fourth SEC series of the season, matching a program record. - Senior Meagan Aull entered the weekend with six career home runs and connected with four in propeling UK's offense to 26 runs on the weekend. Aull had a homer in all three games, including two in the first inning of the final win. She became the first player in school history to hit two long balls in the same inning. - While completing the sweep, UK coach Rachel Lawson won her 200th career game as a head coach. - UK currently ranks second overall in the SEC and first in the Eastern Division.
Baseball - The baseball team completed a four-game week, posting a midweek win over Tennessee Tech, before falling in three games at defending NCAA champion, No. 3 South Carolina. - Kentucky rode a 4-for-4, four-runs-scored outing from senior shortstop Taylor Black in the win over TTU on Tuesday, posting an 11-8 result. - As a team, the Wildcats have posted a .294 batting average through 29 games, owning a 3.83 ERA with eight saves in 254 innings, striking out 237.
Men's tennis - With the match tied 3-3 and the final singles match in a decisive third-set tiebreaker, University of Kentucky freshman Tom Jomby earned arguably his biggest collegiate win of his young career by defeating Andrew Butz to give No. 14 Kentucky a 4-3 win over No. 15 Florida at the Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, Fla. - The win gives Kentucky its first victory over the Gators since the 2002 season and its first win in Gainesville since 1992 when the Wildcats took down Florida in the NCAA Tournament. UK's last regular-season win at Florida was in 1988. - Kentucky continued its winning ways Sunday, taking down South Carolina 5-2 for its 20th win of the season. - UK now has back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since UK earned three consecutive from 1987-89. All told, it is Kentucky's 18th 20-win season in school history and the 12th under longtime head coach Dennis Emery.
Track and field - Senior middle-distance runner Sharif Webb won the 800-meter run for the second consecutive year while setting Kentucky's 800m record and snapping a 25-year old Florida Relays record with a time os 1:47.19. - Sophomore distance runner Cally Macumber earned UK's second win of the Florida Relays with a personal-best time of 4:24.32. - A pair of discus throwers grabbed top-four finishes, with senior Mary Angell (51.34m/168-05) finishing third overall in the women's discus and senior Colin Boevers (57.26m/187-10) fourth on the men's side. - Junior Luis Orta also had a top-five finish, completing the 3,000m steeplechase in 9:01.54 to claim fourth.
Men's golf - UK men's golf freshman Cody Martin posted his third top-25 finish of the spring season as the Wildcats finished 14th in the Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate at Bulls Bay Golf Club in Awendaw, S.C. - Martin was again impressive for Kentucky, scoring the lowest round of the day for the Wildcats with a 1-over-par 72. The three-day score of 216 is the lowest of the season for Martin, who has finished as UK's top golfer in the last three events. - Fellow freshman Stephen Powers carded three birdies in the final round and eight for the tournament, posting a career-low score of 221.
Women's golf - Kentucky recorded its second-lowest round of the spring season Sunday. As a team, UK improved each round of the tournament and finished 19th. - Sophomore Ashleigh Albrecht led the Cats for the third time this spring season, finishing 35th overall. She carded her third-lowest round of the spring during the final round on Sunday.
Women's tennis - Kentucky lost to No. 2 Florida 7-0 Friday and fell to No. 38 South Carolina 6-1 Sunday. - Freshman Khristina Blajkevitch won her team-leading eighth singles victory against South Carolina on Sunday. Blajkevitch's win was also her fifth in conference action, the most on the team.
Tuesday, April 5 Baseball hosts Xavier - 6:30 p.m.
Wednesday, April 6 Men's tennis hosts Ohio State - 3 p.m. Softball at Austin Peay (DH) - 6 p.m. Men's tennis hosts Morehead State - 8 p.m.
Friday, April 8 Women's tennis at Arkansas - 1 p.m. Men's tennis hosts Arkansas - 3 p.m. Softball at Georgia - 6:30 p.m. Baseball hosts Auburn - 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 9 Softball at Georgia - 2:30 p.m. Baseball hosts Auburn - 6:30 p.m. Track and field at Kentuckiana Border Battle (Louisville, Ky.) Men's golf hosts UK Bluegrass Invitational
Sunday, April 10 Baseball hosts Auburn - 1 p.m. Women's tennis at LSU - 1 p.m. Men's tennis hosts LSU - 1 p.m. Softball at Georgia - 1:30 p.m. Men's golf hosts UK Bluegrass Invitational