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Video: Hansen, Delk on jersey retirement

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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) 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)
During a 7 p.m. meet vs. Arkansas in Memorial Coliseum, Jenny Hansen -- the greatest gymnast in Kentucky history -- will be honored with a jersey retirement ceremony. Jersey retirement is considered the highest honor UK Athletics can bestow, and it's a deserving one for Hansen, who won eight national championships during pretty much the most decorated career a college gymnast can have.

Ahead of Hansen's big night, we are republishing this story, which originally ran in the summer of 2011.

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."


As last Friday's showdown with No. 6 Alabama drew closer with each passing day, the No. 24 Kentucky gymnastics team spent the week preparing for the biggest meet of the season.

However, nobody was talking about the competition.

"We've been talking about #CompeteForKylie," said head coach Tim Garrison. "A young lady is 32 months old, and she has stage IV high-risk neuroblastoma."

In what was already scheduled to be UK's second annual DanceBlue Meet, supporting the on-campus organization's fight against pediatric cancer, Garrison's Wildcats decided to further dedicate Friday to a girl whose story had personally impacted the entire gymnastics program.

"It's just something that was special to me," Garrison said. "I brought it to the team and really put it to them. I said, 'Listen, I would really like to do this. Is this something you guys would be interested in?' They all said, 'Yes. Absolutely.' They were touched by it."

If history tells us anything, it's safe to assume that Garrison knew he was barking up the right tree when he approached his team with the idea of dedicating Friday's meet and every meet for the rest of the season to Kylie Rowand, who was diagnosed a year ago. She is the daughter of a gymnast Garrison coached in California.

"We went over to the cancer unit at UK hospital and visited a little earlier in the year, read The Polar Express to them," Garrison said. "So, (the team) is very aware of it, they've been touched by it personally. It's extremely important to our team."

With a little inspiration from Kylie, Kentucky catapulted itself to a team score of 195.625 -- a new season-high -- versus the Crimson Tide. However, Alabama bested the Wildcats with a score of 196.700.

"Competing against strong competition is always good," said Garrison. "It sharpens you, it challenges you every week. That's one thing we pride ourselves on, that we challenge ourselves."

But once each meet is over, his student-athletes are reminded of more important matters than bars and floor mats.

"Once they get out on the floor, I think their focus is purely on competition, which is exactly where it should be," Garrison said. "But, when they go in the locker room, they see #CompeteForKylie on the wall. On the door when they walk in, they see her picture. It definitely comes back to mind."

Kentucky will next travel to Columbia, Mo., to face the Missouri Tigers Friday, February 6 at 7:30 p.m. EST.

This season, the Wildcats will #CompeteForKylie in each meet, and encourage their opponents to join the fight as well. More information on Kylie can be found on Facebook.



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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Rechenmacher Journal Graphic.jpg
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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Whittle Journal Graphic.jpg
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!

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