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The freshman quartet of Katie Carlisle, Brittany Furuyama, Cori Rechenmacher and Sydney Waltz makes up Tim Garrison's first class fully his own.

Recruiting in gymnastics starts so early that Garrison has waited until the fourth year of his Kentucky tenure for the moment they arrived on campus.

That means they are carrying the weight of some serious expectations.

"There is a little bit of pressure on us, but we all know we have the confidence, the talent in general and we go great together, the four of us," Rechenmacher said.

It's a good thing they do, otherwise this group of freshmen would surely not be able to contribute as much as they're being asked so soon.

Two meets into UK's season, the four newcomers have been counted on for seven routines. The first time around in a win at Washington, Garrison said they grew out of being freshmen before the meet was over. In their second meet on Excite Night, they performed more like seasoned veterans.

"Going through the preseason, I was fairly sure they were going to contribute and contribute in a big way," Garrison said. "To this point in the season, it's really turned out to be so."

Counting scores on six of the seven routines performed by freshmen, No. 13 UK came in second in Memorial Coliseum with a score of 195.600, beating Arizona State and falling short of No. 2 LSU's 196.600.

"I guess taking second to No. 2 team in the country is some consolation, but not much," Garrison said. "It still doesn't feel good to not win, but a 195.6 at this point in the season considering the fact that we're based solely on score for our rankings, I guess we'll take it for now."

The score represented a marked improvement from the season opener and the highest so early in the season in Garrison's time in Lexington. The freshmen had a lot to do with it.

On vault, Furuyama and Waltz posted scores of 9.800 and 9.850, respectively, to close out a strong performance on the apparatus. On bars, Carlisle and Waltz went 9.800 and 9.875 before Rechenmacher turned in a 9.850 as the fifth of UK's six performers.

"She's almost the anchor on bars right now," Garrison said. "That's pretty good. That's pretty solid for a freshman."

Rechenmacher wouldn't go as big on beam, the second of her two events, but her score was even more important.

After redshirt junior Alexis Gross tallied a score of 9.050, Rechenmacher stepped up with no margin for error in the fifth spot in UK's lineup. Unfazed, she managed a 9.725 to sustain the momentum the Cats built on vault and bars.

"I just knew I had the confidence in myself," Rechenmacher said. "I've been doing great in the gym this week and I knew I just had to do it for Lex. She was a little upset with herself that she fell and I understand that, but I just wanted to make it for her and help the team."

It's perhaps the most impressive thing about this freshman class that its members are already placing team before self. Along those lines, they're setting some ambitious goals.

"Hopefully we have the power to get this team to nationals," Garrison said. "That's our goal and I think we definitely have it. We're all so talented and just improving day in and day out in the gym. I think we can take this team pretty far."

That's exactly why Garrison recruited them.

"I'm seeing a lot of fight," Garrison said. "I'm seeing a lot of toughness. I'm seeing a lot of what I want to see from our freshman class and everybody else on the team, also. It's a team effort, what we're doing right now, and I think there's a lot of great things in store for us this year."


Tim Garrison thinks of everything he can to simulate a meet-like atmosphere in practice.

He turns up the pressure on his gymnasts as much as possible, but his hands are still tied. When it comes down to it, duplicating the feeling of competing when it counts just isn't possible.

"There's only so much you can do, so actually getting out there and competing and seeing what kind of team we have was a very good thing," Garrison said.

That first look at his team in competition came on Monday, as the Wildcats traveled all the way to Seattle for a season-opening meet against No. 24 Washington. UK came on top, 194.975-194.325, with a score good enough to bump its ranking nine spots to No. 13 entering Friday's home-opening Excite Night meet against LSU and Arizona State.

Garrison called it a "decent opening day," saying plenty of small mistakes and even a few large ones will need to be addressed. But most importantly, the Cats showed themselves to be a team capable of overcoming adversity.

"When we made a mistake that was a large mistake resulting in a fall, the very next competitor was able to step up and actually hit their routine," Garrison said. "So I think that's good. I think that speaks to the toughness of our kids which is something that we're proud of."

An example of that toughness was Alexis Gross, the redshirt junior who missed all of last season due to injury. After Sara Shipley fell twice on beam, UK's final event, Gross needed to post a score to steady the Cats and preserve a slim lead. She did just that with a 9.725. Garrison also cited senior Kayla Hartley as being in "mid-season form."

From veterans like Gross and Hartley, that kind of effort is expected. From freshmen in their first college meet, not so much.

UK relied on its four true freshmen - Katie Carlisle, Brittany Furuyama, Cori Rechenmacher and Sydney Waltz - for six routines on Monday. They weren't perfect, but they weren't afraid either, not as the night went on.

"The way I put it, I think they grew up in front of our eyes," Garrison said. "I think on the first event they were freshmen. They were freshmen being freshmen. I think by the time they competed their second events they had already settled down and kind of gotten into the rhythm of the competition, which is something that we were looking to see."

The freshmen will get more experience under their belt in Memorial Coliseum for Excite Night, the meet that annually kicks off the home season for UK. A pair of strong teams, including the second-ranked Tigers, will be there, making for an event worth seeing.

"I'm expecting a big crowd, that's for sure," Garrison said.

Garrison can't promise anything about the way the Cats will perform, but the way they handled their first meet is a good sign. Regardless, he expects it to be the start of a season to remember.

"As far as I'm concerned, this team is limitless in our potential," Garrison said. "I think we're going to break a lot of records this year."

In Their Own Words: Freshman Cori Rechenmacher

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Throughout the year, each UK gymnast will share her thoughts about the 2015 season, what it's like being a Division I student-athlete at Kentucky and what makes being a Wildcat so special. Please note that these posts are the student-athletes' personal reactions and the views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Kentucky or UK Athletics.

Next up is freshman Cori Rechenmacher, a native of Batavia, Ill. As the new year begins, Rechenmacher looks back at her first semester at the University of Kentucky. From classes to practice and increased independence, there are a lot of adjustments for a first-year college student. As Rechenmacher explains though, she's had plenty of help along the way.

A full archive of all the gymnasts' "In Their Own Words" entries can be found here.
This semester has really brought a new meaning to the phrase "time flies when you're having fun" to me. These past few months, my first semester of college, have really flown by. I really enjoyed the fall semester, and I am so excited to see what the coming months have in store for me, as well as the team!

College life, in general, has been a pretty big adjustment. From living in a dorm with nearly 2,000 people and walking to classes all over campus to managing my time and many other responsibilities, these past few months have been full of changes. Once I started to meet other people in my dorm and my classes, to find people to walk to class with and to discover all the ins and outs of UK, I really began to like all of the independence.  I can say, without a doubt, that I cannot picture myself going to school or doing gymnastics anywhere else. 

The transition from club gymnastics to college gymnastics has been a change, as I expected, but my teammates and coaches have been very supportive, which has been extremely helpful. They all understand what it's like to be a freshman, so they all have different little tips that have really helped with the transition. One of the main differences between college and club gymnastics is that the focus is on the team doing well rather than individuals succeeding. This makes practice much more enjoyable, and really brings the team together as a family, not just a group of girls working out together. 

Coming from a college-prep private school, academics was not as big of an adjustment. However, having access to tutors at UK definitely helped for a really smooth transition. Also, our required study hall hours were very beneficial in that they helped me focus on my studying as well as ensuring that I had enough time to get all my homework done. 

With these past couple months having flown by, I can't wait to get back in the gym and start our competition season! I know this New Year will have great things in store for our team.

In Their Own Words: Redshirt freshman Alyssa Bertoni

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Throughout the year, each UK gymnast will share her thoughts about the 2015 season, what it's like being a Division I student-athlete at Kentucky and what makes being a Wildcat so special. Please note that these posts are the student-athletes' personal reactions and the views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Kentucky or UK Athletics.

Next up is redshirt freshman Alyssa Bertoni, a native of Frederick, Md. As preseason practice concluded last week, Bertoni talks about the changes she has seen from the team this fall, compared to her first season and how the expectations and goals of the team are different.

A full archive of all the gymnast's "In Their Own Words" entries can be found here.
This season has really gotten off to a great start. We had our last practice of the preseason on Sunday, and in my opinion, this year's fall practice was much different from last year. We went in to fall practice in September with high hopes and expectations for our program, which really transformed the way we worked in the gym as a team.

As Montana mentioned last month, we've done a lot of things together outside the gym, including team bonding and community service projects, which have made us a much closer group.

From going  bowling to running 5Ks to visiting children's hospitals and participating in community events,  we all became a lot closer. It really helped us come together not just as teammates but as a true family.

Working in the community definitely brought a positive atmosphere to the team as well as our community. It is so great to give back, because they have provided us with so many opportunities and experiences that will last a lifetime. I felt like this really helped us in the gym because we all got to know each other more than we ever have. This really made an impact on how well we did in the preseason because we got to know each other's strengths and weaknesses and used this to gain confidence in our skills and perform better.

Training in the gym this fall, I felt like we all looked better and were more prepared than last year. As a program, we know we are on the rise and with this year's preseason, we can sense that we are going to be a stronger, more reliable team than ever before. Everyone looks more confident and more determined in their gymnastics.

Each of us has a goal to get to the national championship. In the fall, all of us listed our goals, so we could make that dream a reality. I am more confident than ever that every class has brought something new to the table and we are ready to show off what we have been working towards.

We ended the season last year on a high note by sending one of our teammates to nationals in Audrey Harrison. This year, each of us wants to work until we make it to nationals and succeed as a team. We really have had positive atmosphere throughout the entire fall. The seniors make it easy to come and talk to them if we are having problems or struggling. The coaches are also open to discussion and encourage us to ask questions if things do not make sense or if we need extra help. It's a really positive environment to be around every day.

I'm extremely excited to see where our gymnastics takes us this year. As a team we are prepared for every outcome and have worked incredibly hard to take this program to the next level. I can't wait to see what this year has in store for us as we kick off the season in Washington on Jan. 12, 2015!

In Their Own Words: Junior Montana Whittle

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Throughout the fall, each UK gymnast will share her thoughts about the upcoming 2015 season, what it's like being a Division I student-athlete at Kentucky and what makes being a Wildcat so special. Please note that these posts are the student-athletes' personal reactions and the views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Kentucky or UK Athletics.

Next up is junior Montana Whittle, a native of Lincoln, Neb. Whittle talks about some of the non-athletic team bonding activities the team has done this year. From going bowling and community service projects, the team chemistry is better then ever thanks to the team spending more time together away from the gym.

A full archive of all the gymnast's "In Their Own Words" entries can be found here.

This year, we have been doing a lot more non-athletic team bonding activities which has really created a good chemistry within the team. From community service projects and organized team activities to informal things put together by the upperclassmen, I have noticed a difference in this team. Doing things together and hanging out more voluntarily has made us closer, and therefore we are working together better. Our team chemistry and ability to work well together as a team is all really important for competing well together.

Having spent more time together as a team, we have gotten to know each other better, which helps develop that good chemistry. This makes it easier to trust each other and know what we need from each other to get better in the gym. Whether you are the type of person that needs encouragement, needs someone to be hard on you, or needs someone to tell you everything's going to be ok, we will be able to fulfill those individual needs better by knowing each other's personalities.  

In the past, I personally wasn't as close with each one of my teammates as I am now. We were close as a team in the gym and on the road, but outside of team events, we did not hang out together, all of us as a team. At the end of last year, we went to Tim and said that we wanted to do more team bonding activities and things that would make us closer as a team. The coaching staff has really taken that on and helped us get those opportunities.

The time we spend together outside of the gym has really forged those bonds between us as teammates to a whole new level. We are more apt to hang out with each other as a team outside of the gym, not just the teammates that we live with. We are one team, in and out of the gym, that share the same goals and are fighting for the same thing in practice.

My favorite team bonding activity was a surprise organized by the coaches. Tim had us all get ready for practice, taped up and all, and then he told us we were going bowling instead of practicing. That was really fun. Kirsten beat me on the last couple of bowls in the first game, and in the second game, Tim went crazy and beat all of us. At first we thought he was terrible, but he was letting Reese, his son who is a toddler, play for him. That was probably the most exciting thing we did, especially because it was a surprise and broke from routine.

Doing community service work with Habitat for Humanity was also a really cool experience. About a month ago, we helped a family finish building their home, which was the first of several community service projects we have done this fall. It felt great to help a family build a home, and to be able to do that together as a team was a neat experience.

Because of the team bonding and working together, everyone a lot more prepared. Especially with the chemistry going, there's a really good vibe every day in the gym. There's a nice flow and energy to practice.

After a strong end to last season and a great start to the fall, both in and out of the gym, we are feeling more confident in each other as a team. The freshmen have really helped with that too. They came in confident with their skills, and they bring a lot to the team. Together, we have all grown over the past year and had a lot of improvements. Everyone is confident in what they can do, and when you put that together we can accomplish anything.

Together, we will keep getting stronger as a team, both in and out of the gym. When it comes time for competition to start in January, we'll be ready.

Go Cats!

In Their Own Words: Junior Amy Roemmele

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Throughout the fall, each UK gymnast will share her thoughts about the upcoming 2015 season, what it's like being a Division I student-athlete at Kentucky and what makes being a Wildcat so special. Please note that these posts are the student-athletes' personal reactions and the views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Kentucky or UK Athletics.

Next up is junior Amy Roemmele, a native of White Lake, Mich. Roemmele talks about the annual conditioning test to begin each season. One of three gymnasts to post a perfect score on the test this fall, Roemmele talks about the advantages of the conditioning test and how it has helped get the team prepared for fall practice.

A full archive of all the gymnast's "In Their Own Words" entries can be found here.

As Kayla mentioned in the last edition of "In Our Own Words," the start of the new school year is kicked off by the annual conditioning test. This test not only challenges our physical abilities, but also our mental toughness. It is a combination of total body strength exercises to determine who is physically fit enough to begin official training. The more physically fit you are, the more successful you will be when the season comes around. This year's conditioning test was different than last year's in both exercises and difficultly level.

At the end of the 2014 competitive season, Tim told us what this year's test would entail. Because it was so different than in the past, we took a pre-test over the span of two days to determine exactly where each of us stood. Based on those results, each gymnast knew exactly what she needed to work on for the next three months. It was also determined that everyone had to score a 60% or higher to pass the test when given at the beginning of this year.

It was very nice to have everyone on campus over the summer, including the four new freshmen. This was a great opportunity for everyone to train for the conditioning test the same way and together, as a team. We had voluntary gymnastics practice along with weights and cardio run by our strength and conditioning coach, Ryan DeVriant. Our weights program was designed specifically for exercises on the conditioning test. I believe this is the most important aspect in preparation for the new year. We get to know each other a little better and the freshman are able to get accustomed to the college lifestyle at a more relaxed pace. After the summer session of classes ended, we had about three weeks to prepare on our own.

Finally, the end of August rolled around and it was time to show exactly what we worked for. Again, the test was divided into two days. It was great to see how much each of us progressed from the pre-test in the spring, and even more rewarding to have a 100% pass rate and three perfect scores!

Personally, I think the conditioning test is a great way to kick off the year. It helps get everyone in the right mindset and also sets the tone in the gym for the upcoming season. It is very exciting to see how supportive everyone is of each other and how badly each person wants to be successful. Each year, the conditioning test brings out the best in us as teammates.

In Their Own Words: Senior Kayla Hartley

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Each week throughout the fall, each UK gymnast will share her thoughts about the upcoming 2015 season, what it's like being a Division I student-athlete at Kentucky and what makes being a Wildcat so special. Please note that these posts are the student-athletes' personal reactions and the views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Kentucky or UK Athletics.

First up is redshirt senior Kayla Hartley, a native of nearby Versailles, Ky. One of two captains on the 2014-15 team, Hartley talks about the team's fast start to preseason practice, helping the freshmen transition to life at UK and her excitement about coming back for one more year.

As the school year begins, so does the UK gymnastics team's preseason training. We've been practicing for a week and a half now, and it's been the best start to the season I've seen in my five years as a Wildcat. I feel like everyone has come in prepared and ready to go. We always want a fast start in the fall, as it makes the spring season easier because you're ready, and feel confident walking into an arena knowing you're going to hit your routines. Right now in the gym, we're working on getting the routines down. As preseason progresses, we'll slowly start perfecting these routines, and the faster that happens, the better our scores will be in the spring. Of course, it's always fun getting great scores. 

Our fast start to the preseason was definitely evident with a 100-percent passing rate on this year's conditioning test. I was so happy to see everyone pass this year, I knew it would set the tone in the best way possible for the season. The conditioning test is the first time the team really comes together as one, supporting and cheering each other on. Knowing that we're all in this together helps push each other along. For the upperclassmen, we know the conditioning test is only the beginning of a season of conditioning. The conditioning test is time to show the freshmen that coming together and supporting each other will really help make preseason and all the conditioning a little easier. The way I see it, as a big family unit we suffer (conditioning mostly) together, we survive (conditioning again) together, and we succeed together (winning, or for the conditioning test, passing). 

Not only can you see it in the conditioning test, but the notion that everyone feels they have a place on the team is a great sign. Everyone comes in knowing they have a job to do and they are going to do it. Breaking records is always fun but not as fun as actually making the goals. Our goal is always to make it the nationals. Last year Audrey Harrison made it and this year we want to make it as a team for the first time in program history. Everyone agrees that we can do it, we just have to stay on track and get ready and down to business. 

We have an equal distribution of upperclassmen and underclassmen, which is going to be a good thing for this team. In the past we have mostly been a young team still learning how to compete. This year we have plenty of upperclassman leadership that will help the freshmen make the transition into the demands and expectations of being a Division-I student-athlete. Upperclassmen will be able to help the freshmen handle all the particulars of being a student-athlete with little tips we've learned along the way. Things like getting more study hall hours in on off days rather than on Thursday nights, when everyone is trying to get those last few minutes, and learning the back roads to avoid traffic and getting to class and practice on time are some of those tips that I've told the freshmen to make their first semester in Lexington easier.

I'm really excited for the opportunity to come back for one last season. I'm looking forward to being with these girls and competing with them all for the first or the last time. I'm ready to break more records and make history with this team, doing the sport I love, wearing the blue and white and competing in my home state. I'll always bleed blue. 

Go CATS!

In late July, nine student-athletes -- Bria Goss (women's basketball), Jared Phillips (track/cross country), Charlie Reymann (men's soccer), Montana Whittle (gymnastics), Danielle Fitzgerald (women's soccer), Katrina Keirns (swimming and diving), John Sutton (rifle), Kirsten Lewis (women's tennis), Haley Mills (women's golf) -- participated in the second of two annual service trips to Ethiopia sponsored by UK Athletics. Over the next week, they will take turns sharing their experiences through a series of blog entries. Please note that these posts are the student-athletes' personal reactions and the views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Kentucky or UK Athletics.

Today, Montana Whittle, Danielle Fitzgerald and Charlie Reymann each write about an unforgettable day spent in the poorest area of Addis Ababa.


Montana Whittle

Where to start?

I find myself at a loss of words, because this experience cannot be described. There are no words or pictures that do this place justice. I wish I could let you see my memories and feel what I have felt. I will do my best to help you understand this place and its people, but I would highly encourage you to explore this world yourself and challenge you to keep an open mind.  

Today started with an amazing plate of French toast and a cup of coffee, and finished with me questioning my entire existence.  After breakfast we were given a brief explanation of what the day would bring. At this time I thought I was going to change lives, but the truth is that my life would be changed, forever. We were told that we were going to visit the poorest part of Addis Ababa. It is about one square mile, maybe a little bigger, and is home to over 100,000 people. These people are the poorest of the poor, most of them have been shunned due to disabilities and illnesses, such as leprosy or HIV/AIDS.  

We pull up in our van to Mark's office and children swarm us. From the minute we walked outside to the time we left, those children held our hands. They were so excited to meet us and tell us about themselves. All they wanted was for us to remember them, pray for them, love them. These children had such a huge impact on me. They were the happiest kids I had ever met, and yet they had nothing. Most of them had shoes that were falling apart and clothes that were worn thin. The two boys who held my hand had asked me for things, such as clothes, shoes or food. It broke my heart that we were not allowed to give them anything, because it would be unfair to those who did not get something. All I wanted to do was give these kids everything they needed; I wanted to tell them that everything was going be OK. But, the truth is, I had no idea. The memory of these children chasing after our van when we left will stay with me forever.

Our mission today was to deliver food and supplies (coffee beans, macaroni, salt, matches and soap) to widows and families in need. At the office we met the women and children who were going to be receiving these supplies. These women were inspirational. Faithful. They were so grateful, even though some of them could not even walk. Two women in particular really impacted me because one was in a wheelchair and the other had a daughter who could not walk, so she carried her on her back. When we delivered their food to their homes, the walk was not short. These mothers did not complain. In fact they were overjoyed just to meet us and have us see their homes.

I have never seen such poor living conditions, where their walls were sod, their roofs were tin and their floors were mud. A large house would be the size of our bathrooms in America. Yet, we were invited in without a moment's hesitation. They were so proud and had no shame; they wanted us to see everything in their homes and even offered us coffee. The first thing they did was thank us and tell us that they would be praying for us every day. I could not help but get emotional; I was not the one who needed prayers. I have never seen God work through people so much. They had so much going against them -- missing limbs, leprosy, unable to walk, crooked feet -- and yet they still were so patient with us, still so loving, still so faithful, still so happy.  


My experience today and every day this week was unreal and unforgettable. Now that I am home, all I can think about are those beautiful people that I met and my plan to return in the future. This experience has caused me to question everything that I know and everything that I want. Everything that was so important to me in the past is not important anymore. I know this experience has changed me for the better and I hope I never forget the faces and hearts of the people of Ethiopia.

Danielle Fitzgerald

Today was spent in one of the world's poorest places, which is built around the city dump. We started the morning with our standard "UK breakfast special" consisting of French toast and eggs but nothing we saw after was familiar. We were aware of the immense state of poverty but familiarity stopped there.

As we rolled up to the office that works to provide sponsorships to the people of the area, we were instantly greeted by big grins and precious little hands that wanted to be held. The instant joy the kids felt from simply having somebody touch them was quite overwhelming.

Mark took us into the office where we formed an assembly line to package macaroni, salt, body soap and other items for people who had been put on the sponsorship wait list. The recipients were sitting outside of the office and even though most were suffering from starvation, HIV/AIDS or leprosy, the pure joy they expressed seemed to be most contagious. We each carried a bag full of necessities to different houses, kids still in tow throughout the day. Although their houses' sizes were more comparable to a standard American bathroom than an American house, everyone was so proud to show us their homes and invite us to stay.

Each member of our team had about three kids latched onto them throughout the day and close to 100 followed us both when we were walking from house to house and running closely behind when our van took us to other parts of the town. There are few words to describe the emotions felt when a swarm of kids chases your van for miles and the two or three kids you've grown very close to come find you again, happy as can be to have done so. The simplest things brought them the most joy: thumb wars, hand games and skipping through the streets. Not even a language barrier could hinder that. Many of the kids would push their way through the line of hands to get closer to us but they did not realize they were the real celebrities, their endless love and eagerness to get to know us more admirable than our presence.


One of the hardest parts of the day was leaving the kids we had established relationships with. Eyes teared up when our new friends asked for pens to write their names on our arms in hopes that we would remember them forever and keep them in our prayers. Nothing can prepare you for the moment that two little girls ask you to take them home with you because life would be better that way.

It is so easy for us to get caught up in how busy our own lives are and forget about what is really important. These people don't have money to spend, cars to drive or cell phones to obsess over. They do have each other. And without worldly relationships, they still have a strong faith in God. I have never been so overwhelmed by such a concentrated sentiment of love. Relationships were valued so much more when there was not an emphasis on material possessions. Every person we came in contact with was significantly happier with their lives than I have ever seen before and I believe there is something to be said for that. Material poverty and spiritual wealth may not look glamorous from the outside looking in, but a completely different story was told once we were able to see from these beautiful people's perspective, even if only for a small fraction of time.

Charlie Reymann


Today was our second day in Ethiopia and it was full of eye-opening experiences. We started off with breakfast and then traveled to an area considered one of the poorest places in Ethiopia. The city began when all the people with leprosy were sent away and as time went on more and more outcasts were sent here. It surrounds a trash dump, and sometimes the people will search in the dump for food or supplies for their houses. We knew going into this day that this will be something we will never forget.

It is such a blessing to be able to experience a place like this. As we arrived, the first observations we had were the amount of people on the streets and what they called their homes. In the U.S. a home like we saw would make people look the other way. The houses were made from mud, wood and tin roof. And they were just thankful to have a home, something I think we all take for granted.

Once we arrived, we teamed up with a community center to provide some of the people in the community with a month's worth of supplies. The community center we worked with sponsors women and men from the city. The people that we helped today were men and women in line for the next sponsor. Some of the supplies we gave to them were macaroni, coffee beans, sugar and soap. We split up into little teams to make the process go as smoothly as possible. Since we are all athletes we all know how to work in a team, so we got to work.

Once we were done we all got the privilege to hand these men and women their supplies, which was a wonderful sight. Seeing their faces as we gave them the supplies was remarkable. They all said "God bless you" in English when we gave them their bag. After we gave them their supplies, some of us followed them to their houses to help carry them. These women came a long way to get their supplies, if I had to guess the farthest was two miles. And the lady who traveled the two miles was in a wheel chair!

As we walked with these women, questions came into my head. How does a place get like this? How does any human live in this city? Is there any solution to this problem? We may never know the answers to those questions but seeing the children filled us all with joy. Children came from everywhere to walk with us like we were rock stars. Each of us had at least three children holding our hands. Their smiles and joy were contagious to all of us. A place where it is hard to find anything to be happy about, these children could not stop smiling.

As I walked with these kids, I realized they were just happy to be alive. Video games and computers did not matter to them unlike kids in America. Materialistic goods are what most Americans really care about: their phones, their cars and their jewelry. These people have nothing and they all act like they have everything they need and more. It made us realize that we do not need all the "things" we own to be happy. They just enjoyed being with their friends and walking around with Americans for the day. And making new friends! We were their idols. They were thankful for a new friend, and that someone will be thinking about them. We get so caught up in our little world that we are not thankful for small things in life because we take them for granted.

We all went back to the community center to regroup and get ready for lunch. We went to a restaurant and almost everybody ordered a pizza. My pizza was delicious! We travel with three Ethiopian kids our age to help us learn the culture, translate, and most of all become our friends. Their names are Wario, Girma, and Khalib. They all made us try this green hot sauce that was like fire in your mouth. According to them everyone is used to hot spices in Ethiopia so when Americans come, they are not used to how hot the food is. Besides the green sauce that we tried everything was great and we headed back to explore the city a little more.

After lunch, we walked right up to the dump. We went inside a small village that was right next to it and the craziest thing happened. The little kids who were with us all morning found us and walked with us again!

I could not understand how some of these families can live this close to the dump and be so happy with their lives. No one would ever live as close to a trash dump as these homes were in the United States. We all went into the village and Mark called us around this small boy. He then told us that the kid he was holding up had a tumor above his eye not too long ago. One of the families who sponsored his family paid for this child to have his tumor removed. The kid could not have been more than four years old. This story touched all of our hearts. God used the sponsor to save that little boy's life. A remarkable story that we will never forget.

In Ethiopia everything is about relationships, and I experienced that right when I got off the bus. A little kid named Honuk, 10 years old, ran right up to me and asked me my name. I was very impressed with his English, and for the rest of the day we were best friends. He asked me questions about everything that had to do with America and told me as much as he could about his life. Listening to him talk about his life just made me want to help him in every way I could. I gave him one of the soccer balls we brought and he was so excited to get a new ball. As he was carrying the ball around all his friends you could tell he felt really special that he had the new Nike soccer ball. Throughout the day I kept finding myself thinking how smart this kid is and if there was anything I could do to help his life. He was so joyful and happy to be where he was.

All the kids were so happy! They were happy because they know that they mean something to someone who lives outside their village. That means so much to them. Honuk and some of the other kids wanted us to remember their names so bad that they wrote them on our arms. He borrowed a pen from a street vendor and pressed as hard as he could to spell out his name. The moment that will never leave my mind is when we were all getting on the bus to leave my new friend Honuk ran up to the bus and waved for me to open the window. With a smiling face and love in his eyes he said, "Charlie, I will miss you. I will pray for you." Those were the types of moments we all experienced today and I think we all agreed that we will never forget this day.

Walking through the city we saw more little kids laughing, playing, and loving each other than anywhere in the U.S. We saw mothers more proud of their homes than most mothers in America. They might not have as much money or opportunity but they have more joy and spirit. This day was an incredible day that we will always cherish in our hearts.  

Welcome to UK Gymnastics Championship Central. Follow this page for daily all-access updates on the UK gymnastics team during its postseason competition. Videos, photos, news, commentary and more from team headquarters at the SEC Championships, NCAA Regionals and NCAA Championships, can all be found right here.

Additional updates on the Wildcats can be found on social media. Fans can follow the team on Twitter at @UKGymnastics, like them on Facebook at Facebook.com/UKGymnastics and on Instagram at Instagram.com/UKgymnastics.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014
UK Among the Nation's Attendance Leaders | 2:25 p.m. ET
The national attendance rankings for the 2014 season have been released, and once again Kentucky is among the NCAA leaders. For the first time in program history, the Wildcats averaged over 3,000 fans per meet.

Attendance Graphic.jpg
In 2014, the Wildcats are one of just eight schools, six of them from the SEC, to average more than 3,000 fans per meet and have a season high crowd over 5,000.

An average of 3,265 fans watched the Wildcats in four home contests in 2014, which ranks eighth nationally. UK is one of seven SEC teams to rank in the top 10 in average attendance, while all eight league teams are in the top 17.

Kentucky opened the season with Excite Night on Jan. 10, when 5,839 filled Memorial Coliseum, the biggest crowd at home since 2007 and third-largest since at least 1997. The total is ninth in the NCAA rankings of school's highest home meet attendance.

Thank you to the Big Blue Nation for their continued support this season, and we look forward to seeing you back in Memorial Coliseum in 2015!

Monday, April 21, 2014
Countdown to the 2015 Season | 11:40 a.m. ET
While Kentucky's season ended Friday, the official end to the 2014 season was yesterday at the NCAA Event Finals. After Florida and Oklahoma shared the NCAA title on Saturday, four individual national champions were crowned Sunday. The 2015 schedule will be released early in the fall, but the countdown to next season officially begins today, 263 days ahead of the season-opener.

2015 Countdown.jpg

Saturday, April 19, 2014
Photos from the NCAA Championships & Back in Lexington | 3:15 p.m. ET
As we arrive back in Lexington, check out the photo gallery from the last three days at the NCAA Championships in Birmingham, Ala., on UK's Facebook page. Additionally, if you missed it, a full recap from the NCAA Championships, where UK made its first appearance since 2010, can be found here on UKathletics.com.


On the Road Home | 8:30 a.m. CT
The 2014 season  came to a close for UK yesterday at the NCAA Championships, and now we are on our way back to Lexington. A complete recap from the NCAA Championships first session, where senior Audrey Harrison finished tied for 18th on balance beam is here

Friday, April 18, 2014
NCAA Championships Recap | 7:30 p.m. CT
A complete recap, results, video and more from Audrey Harrison's performance on beam in the NCAA Championships first session can be found here. Harrison finished in a tie for 18th with a 9.800. The score is tied for sixth-highest NCAA score in UK history on the event.

In session one, Oklahoma, Georgia and LSU advanced to tomorrow's Super Six team finals. The second session of the NCAA Championships semifinals is underway, with host-Alabama, Florida, Nebraska, Penn State, UCLA and Utah.

Harrison Ties for 18th with UK's Sixth-Best Score in NCAA History | 4:40 p.m. CT

Senior Audrey Harrison scored a 9.800 on beam to finish tied for 18th among 45 competitors in session 1 of the national championships. The score is tied for the sixth-highest on beam at the NCAA Championships in program history. Only Jenny Hansen, who won eight national titles as a Wildcat, has recorded a higher score.

Complete results can be found here, and we caught up with Audrey after the competition, and that video can be found here or below. Audrey, the coaches and staff are heading to dinner now, before tonight's second session. We'll have much more from Birmingham towards the beginning of the second session, at 8 p.m. ET.


Harrison Scores a 9.800 | 3:15 p.m. CT

Audrey Harrison scored a 9.800 on balance beam. She currently is tied for 11th, shy of advancing to Sunday's individual finals. Through four rotations, a 9.900 is needed to place in the top four and advance.

Underway at the NCAA Championships | 1:05 p.m. CT

The teams, along with UK's Audrey Harrison, have been introduced, and we are about to get underway in the first session of the NCAA Championships. Fans can watch the full competition here on NCAA.com, or follow along with live results. Harrison will compete on beam with Georgia, in the fourth of six rotations.


NCAA Championships Meet Day is Here | 7:45 a.m. CT

The wait for Audrey Harrison and UK is almost over, the NCAA Championships begin today. The competition begins at 2 p.m. ET, and Harrison will compete in the fourth rotation on beam. Notes, stats, historical records and more are all available in the preview and meet notes on UKathletics.com. Harrison will be the first Wildcat since 2010 to compete at the national championship meet and the 10th UK gymnast in program history. She is the fourth to qualify on an individual event and the first on beam.

gym gameday NCAA semi 2014-tweet.jpg

Thursday, April 17, 2014
NCAA Championships Notes | 4:20 p.m. CT
Notes for the NCAA Championships, which include info on UK's qualifier Audrey Harrison, Kentucky's NCAA Championships history, a recap of the 2014 season and more are available here and by clicking on the first page of the notes, below.

NCAA Championships Notes

Championship Practice About to Begin | 1 p.m. CT

The practice session is wrapping up, and UK senior Audrey Harrison had a good practice on balance beam, her event at tomorrow's NCAA Championships semifinal. She will be in the same rotation as Georgia, so the practice also gave Audrey the opportunity to meet their team. We are heading to lunch now downtown, before having the rest of the afternoon and evening off.

Championship Practice About to Begin | 11:15 a.m. CT

The first NCAA Championships practice session, which includes UK senior Audrey Harrison, is about to begin here at the BJCC Arena in Birmingham. It is familiar territory for Harrison and UK coaches and staff, after the SEC Championships were held in the same venue nearly a month ago.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014
NCAA Banquet | 8:50 p.m. CT
We just returned to the hotel after a great banquet in downtown Birmingham with the rest of the teams at this year's championships. The dinner had a great view of the city, and we were able to enjoy the end of a beautiful day outside, mingling with everyone before dinner. After dinner, American Idol winner Taylor Hicks, a Birmingham native, performed. It was a great event to kick off a fun next few days here with the nation's best collegiate gymnasts.


Off to Birmingham | 11:45 a.m. ET

We are officially on the road to Birmingham, Ala., for the 2014 NCAA Gymnastics Championships. The travel party includes senior Audrey Harrison, head coach Tim Garrison, assistant coach Mary McDaniel, trainer Jake Smith and myself, Charlie Healy, the team's media relations director. The drive is expected to take about six and a half hours, and upon arrival in Birmingham, we will all go to the NCAA Championship banquet, with the other teams and individuals competing this weekend. Assistant coach Chuck Dickerson, along with many of Audrey's teammates, will join us on Friday.

Gymnastics looking for consistency in NCAA Regionals

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Kentucky set a school record at Penn State in the regular season finale last season. (Britney Howard, UK Athletics) Kentucky set a school record at Penn State in the regular season finale last season. (Britney Howard, UK Athletics)
Consistency.

Throughout the 2013-14 campaign, the Kentucky gymnastics team has turned in solid performances on each of the four events in a meet. However, it's putting it all together at once that will allow Kentucky's season to live on, which the Wildcats have yet to do this season.

UK head coach Tim Garrison has preached consistency to his team as the NCAA Regional quickly approaches. It's the one thing that has escaped his team throughout the course of the season, and in order for Kentucky to advance to the NCAA Championships in Birmingham, the Cats will need to heed the message.

"We still have yet to put a complete meet together," said Garrison who is in his third season at UK. "In my mind, we've improved in a lot of ways; we still haven't shown 100 percent of that improvement all at one time, which is something we're looking forward to doing this weekend."

The Wildcats will put their skills to the test this weekend in State College, Pa., joining No. 1 Florida, No. 12 Oregon State, No. 15 Penn State, New Hampshire and Maryland in the program's 26th NCAA appearance, including 10 straight. In the 25 previous appearances, UK has never advanced to the NCAA Championships. Hence the reason Garrison has instilled the concept that his team needs to be consistent to earn a top two finish and a berth in the NCAA Championships.

This year's NCAA Regional has put the Wildcats in a great position to claim that first NCAA Finals appearance. For instance, Kentucky is familiar with the venue in State College, having competed at Penn State last season. Coincidentally, the Wildcats registered a school record mark of 196.775 in the regular season finale at Penn State's Rec Hall, which is where this weekend's regional will be held.

Also, earlier this season, UK defeated Penn State in the season-opening meet, as part of a four-team event in Lexington.

"We think we have a favorable draw, I think for several different reasons," Garrison explained. "One, we're comfortable with Penn State. We're comfortable with the arena. We've competed against Penn State this year and had a favorable result. Obviously, that was the first meet of the year, but still it was a good result for us, so we're comfortable with that fact."

It all starts with building momentum.

Many times a meet can be determined with how a team starts. Garrison is hoping his team can build some early momentum to control the jitters and settle his team down to begin a consistent performance.

"Obviously we need a good start on bars," Garrison said. "There's a bit of momentum that comes along with getting into a competition and doing well and building momentum. It has to start somewhere and that momentum is going to have to start on bars. I'm looking for consistency. I'm looking to save every tenth we can possibly save. I'm looking to build momentum. I'm looking to put pressure on the other teams."

Kentucky's rotation will be bars, beam, bye, floor and vault. The rotation gives the Wildcats an early chance to build momentum, as the uneven bars have proven to be a good event this season.

"We have a great rotation," Garrison said. "We're starting off on bars, which is a good event for us. We go to beam, which is second, and we're settling down and we're into the competition by that point. Then we go to floor and we finish off on vault. Floor and vault this year are two very strong events for us, so we're looking forward to finishing on strong events."

Senior Audrey Harrison, who will compete in all four events, will carry some of the burden of building and sustaining that momentum and consistency.

"I definitely think we have a great chance this year," said Harrison about the team advancing to the NCAA Championships. "It's definitely possible and our confidence has been building throughout the season, so I think it can all come together and we can hit all four events at the same time, which would be awesome."

Every little detail matters when postseason arrives. Building momentum to start the meet is vital. Consistency throughout the competition is crucial.

The stage is set for the Wildcats, now they just have to take advantage.

"I think we're going to have to have a good day," Garrison said. "I think we have the team. I think we have the draw. It really is set up well for us to be successful in many different ways. Every region is going to be tough. You have six teams going in and they're all very competitive or else they wouldn't be there. You have to be one of the top two teams to come out of the region. They're going to be tough, every single one of them."

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