Kentucky gymnastics produced the sixth-best score in program history at Florida, notching 196.075 for a season high. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics)
Getting over the hump is a difficult task for teams on the cusp of something great. It takes painstaking effort, attention to detail and extreme focus to get to that point when that level of success has eluded a team all season long. Mentally, the challenge is even greater to get over the hump, as the longer it takes, the taller the hump often grows.
It took the Kentucky gymnastics team eight meets, but UK finally reached the summit of said "hump".
The Southeastern Conference acts like a monopoly at times with the amount of talented and elite teams it boasts in many varsity sports in the collegiate ranks. For example, football hasn't lost in the BCS Championship game for the last seven years. Baseball has won three of the last five College World Series. Oh, and an SEC gymnastics team has won seven of the last eight NCAA Championships.
In other words, it's tough to be an up and coming team in a such a dominant league.
It might take awhile for UK gymnastics to rise to the level of its most recent competitor, No. 1 Florida, or two-time defending NCAA champion Alabama. But the Cats are trying, and they are getting closer than they have ever been since the early 1990s, the days of All-American and three-time NCAA All-Around Champion Jenny Hansen.
For those who don't know the sport, it's, well, different. In most cases, a gymnastics team is not competing against the other teams it faces in a meet. Instead, teams perform for themselves and by themselves. Win/loss records are valued, but a greater emphasis is placed on team scores.
UK started off the 2013 season at a record pace, earning its highest score in a season-opening meet in school history. The Cats also earned their first SEC road win in decades. They've set the bar high (no uneven bars pun intended), so now the staff and the athletes themselves have higher expectations for this season.
There is still a lot of work yet to be done in 2013, but UK capped off its SEC slate with their first 196-plus score of the season in Gainesville, Fla., against the No. 1 Gators Friday night. The Wildcats weren't perfect, but that target of 196 was one that the team had been reaching for all season long.
Consider UK on top of the hump, trying to figure out where to go from here. Whether or not the Cats finally get over it or if they roll back down the side they've been climbing all season long is yet to be determined.
What the Wildcats can be excited about is that there is continued progress being shown on an almost weekly basis. Facing a litany of SEC powerhouses consecutively, Kentucky held its own and posted some season-high scores in the meantime. That progress was thwarted two weekends ago when No. 21 UK hosted an unranked Missouri team.
Kentucky turned in a season-high score on uneven bars that night and finished the evening off with a solid performance on floor exercise to nudge by the Tigers for UK's fifth win of the season. But UK was unrecognizable on balance beam and the Cats continued to underperform on vault.
After the meet against Missouri in which UK posted its lowest team score of the season, there was uncertainty as to how the Wildcats would respond against another SEC juggernaut back on the road for the first time in four weeks.
Though beam competitors struggled mightily against Missouri, beam has been one of the strongest and most consistent events of the season for UK. The main area concern from UK head coach Tim Garrison has been vault.
Garrison would say that vault should be his team's best event. To this point, it hasn't been. To this point, it's been frustrating. His team has only stuck four landings all season, a figure he believes should be much higher due the team's skill level and ability to stick dismounts at a higher rate in practice.
At Florida, vault turned back into UK's strength. Despite still not sticking a perfect landing in the event, the Cats walked away with a season-high score of 49.05. Garrison made lineup changes, including leading off with sophomore Sara Shipley who was competing for the first time in the event all season.
The lineup changes and the intensity of the preceding week's workout paid off as the team got back on track in a big way, including beam where UK posted its season-high score to polish of a final tally of 196.075, the sixth-best performance in program history.
With a Sunday meet at Ball State waiting this weekend, it is imperative for Kentucky to not relax as the Cats step outside of conference competition. After facing the best of the best over a five-week stretch, UK will have to continue to carry that intensity heading into the weekend and beyond.
If this team can pushits over the hump, there are potentially big things awaiting UK on the other side. A few more 196-plus performances this season, which the coaching staff believes is completely attainable, and the Wildcats will officially be over the hump and chasing greatness all the way to the NCAA Championships.
Shelby Hilton and the Wildcats are looking for more sticks on vault as they close out the SEC regular season at Florida. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics)
For the first time in four weeks, the Kentucky gymnastics team will be back on the road this Friday. After facing three consecutive top-10 SEC teams, UK finally caught a break against unranked Missouri last weekend.
UK, however, will not have the luxury of easing back into road competition with the No. 1-ranked Florida Gators awaiting the Wildcats Friday night in Gainesville, Fla.
After building up quite a bit of momentum when UK reached its highest score of the season in a tie at home with No. 7 Georgia, the Wildcats took a step back in their progression against the Missouri Tigers. Through the first two events against Missouri, UK was on pace to reach 196 for the first time this season after a solid performance on vault and a season-high score 49.150 on the uneven bars.
But then misfortune bit the Cats in a nearly disastrous way.
Kentucky had three performers fall during their beam events, allowing Missouri to stay in the meet and almost pull off the upset. Kentucky went on to perform well enough to hold off the Tigers by 0.125 points to earn the victory despite the Cats' lowest overall output of the season.
The beam, however, is one of head coach Tim Garrison's lesser concerns. Instead, he's looking toward another event, one that has been so-so but far from their standards they've set in the practice gym.
"We need to get to the point of being precise enough to stick the vault and be able to compete it well," said Garrison. "If you look at what we've done just on that event alone, we've given away so many tenths this year. That can totally change our ranking right now."
UK, currently ranked No. 23, has had a very successful season by any measure. Garrison - and he hopes his athletes would agree - believes his team is capable of much more. Uneven bars have been a staple in meets so far this season, but it's the vault that is continuing to give the Cats trouble.
In UK's 42 (counted) vault performances, the Wildcats have only stuck four of those routines, a tick less than 10 percent
"That's not good enough," said Garrison.
By comparison, the impact of not sticking vault landings is equal to each floor exercise performer stepping out of bounds on each routine during a meet, costing a tenth of a point. While that may not seem like much, those tenths add up quickly, especially when a few tenths can mean the difference between a 195-plus and the first 196 of the season, a score that Garrison feels should come almost routinely.
"The potential of our team is 196.5 just on a normal day when the scores are normal and we do what we're supposed to do, we're a 196.5 team," said Garrison. "If they're scoring well, we could approach 197. We really could."
In order to do that, UK has to get off to a faster start. In home meets, Kentucky starts off on vault. A strong performance in the event could set the tone for the team's first "complete performance" of the season. Garrison says his team is still in search of that moment.
While UK is less concerned with beating Florida this weekend than handling its own business and putting up the best score of the season, if Kentucky makes the necessary jump on vault and continues to execute on bars, they could put some serious pressure on the top-ranked Gators.
On the road, UK will start on uneven bars, which may be beneficial to them since leading off with vault hasn't been the Cats' greatest strength the last four weeks at home. If UK can get through the first two events unscathed, it just might give the Cats a puncher's chance Friday night.
"You go over and rock bars at an away meet, like this weekend, if we go over and hit bars and then stick vault, now we're putting pressure on some of these other teams," said Garrison. "We've done a decent job of putting pressure on teams this year anyway, but we could be ahead. We could have better overall scores.
"It's not just the Missouri meet because I think beam has been great for us all year. We've been getting part, but not all of the events that we're doing, and that's not good enough. I said if we don't challenge, we could very easily miss out on some of our goals."
What Kentucky has going for is this weekend is the experience of performing in this type of environment already once this season. The Cats traveled to defending national champion Alabama before starting their four-meet home stand. It was a struggle for UK, but an experience the team needed.
Garrison believed his team was fully prepared to head into that environment technically, but the results proved otherwise. Now, with that experience in the Cats' back pocket, Friday night's atmosphere should be less of a factor.
If Kentucky finds itself in the situation where the Cats have to come from behind, well, they've been in that position this season already too.
"Unfortunately we've been in the position a couple of times this season where we've had to come back, and they've never given up on a competition regardless of what happened," said Garrison. "We're going to go down there and we're not going to lay down for anybody. I don't think this team will ever do that."
The Wildcats will need to get off to that fast start to hang with Florida Friday night. It will be a challenge, but one that UK is looking forward to. The Cats know what they are capable of; now it's time for them to execute on the big stage.
"If we start coming along on vault, our potential is greater as a team," said Garrison. "If we could start sticking our vaults, because our vaults are so much stronger than they were at the beginning of the year, we're capable of 49.2-49.3."
Men's basketball - The Kentucky men's basketball team dropped an 88-58 loss to Tennessee on Saturday. Sophomore Kyle Wiltjer led the Cats with 18 points and six rebounds. - Senior Julius Mays scored 12 points and has logged 10 or more points in five straight games. - Junior Jarrod Polson contributed a career-high 11 points.
Women's basketball - Kentucky has won its last three games and looks to keep its winning streak alive when it faces No. 11/13 Texas A&M on ESPN2's Big Monday in the second meeting of the season between the teams. - The Wildcats charted their 10th SEC win last week with an impressive come-from-behind victory over No. 16/14 South Carolina. Trailing by 16 points early in the second half, the Wildcats used a four-guard set to chip away at the Gamecocks' lead and win 78-74 - the largest comeback in the Matthew Mitchell era. - Four players scored in double digits led by redshirt sophomore point guard Jennifer O'Neill with 19.
Gymnastics - Then-No. 17 Kentucky defeated Missouri 194.250-194.125 on Friday night in Memorial Coliseum. - Audrey Harrison was the lone all-around competitor posting a 39.3, which tied her career-high set last week. - The junior also won balance beam, and shared the honors on uneven bars and floor exercise. - The Knoxville, Tenn., native now has 12 individual event honors this season and 19 in her career. - Her five all-around wins in 2013 have all come against Southeastern Conference competition. - Shannon Mitchell tied Harrison for the floor title, her second of the season and the third of her career.
Rifle - The Kentucky rifle team shot a 4697 on Saturday at the NCAA Qualifiers. - Sophomore Elijah Ellis and senior Stacy Wheatley delivered personal bests in smallbore, with Ellis posting a 583 and Wheatley shooting a 586. - Senior Henri Junghänel led the team in smallbore and air rifle, shooting a 588 in smallbore and a 594 in air rifle.
Softball - The No. 22/24 UK softball team continued where it left off last weekend by defeating another ranked team en route to a 4-1 record in the 23rd Campbell/Cartier Classic in San Diego. The Wildcats posted wins over No. 16 Washington, San Diego State - who is receiving votes in one poll - Cal Poly and UC Riverside. - Junior pitcher/infielder Lauren Cumbess paced the Wildcats throughout the weekend at the plate, blasting two homers for a .500 average (8-for-16) at the event with five RBI. Cumbess also went 1-0 in the circle, while freshman hurler Kelsey Nunley went 3-0 with a 2.21 ERA over the weekend. Nunley defeated San Diego State and Washington, throwing a complete game shutout against the Aztecs allowing only three hits. - UK has now defeated three ranked teams this season in then-No. 3 Cal, No. 16 Washington and No. 20 Stanford. Coach Rachel Lawson and Co. have also taken down Oregon State and SDSU, who both were receiving votes when UK posted wins against them. After two weekends of play, UK is 8-3 with its only losses coming to No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 3 Arizona State and unranked Portland State.
Baseball - Kentucky began the season 2-0 with wins over UNC Asheville and Niagara in Spartanburg, S.C. UK wraps up play at Wofford on Monday against USC Upstate. - Junior second baseman J.T. Riddle set a new program record with a 6-for-6 game at the plate and starter Jerad Grundy tied a career-best with nine strikeouts in six innings in the win over Niagara. - Sophomore All-America southpaw A.J. Reed worked five innings on the mound and went a career-best 4-for-5 at the plate with three RBI, leading No. 8 Kentucky to a 9-2 season-opening win over UNC Asheville.
Men's tennis - Kentucky advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2013 ITA National Team Indoor Championships this weekend in Seattle, recording wins over No. 10 Mississippi State (4-0), and No. 6 Georgia (4-2). - UK's No. 90 Anthony Rossi went 2-0 in singles action, defeating No. 12 Raymond Sarmiento of Southern Cal and knocking off No. 21 Nathan Pasha of Georgia 6-4, 7-6 (7) on Sunday. - With the wins this weekend, UK recorded their seventh win of the season over teams in the top 25 of the ITA rankings, as the Wildcats are now 3-1 versus teams in the top 10. - Tom Jomby also went 2-0 in singles play this weekend, collecting two straight-set wins. On Friday, Jomby ran past No. 43 Malte Stroppe of Mississippi State 6-2, 6-0 before giving UK a crucial point in its match with UGA, collecting a 6- 4, 6-4 win over No. 92 over No. 92 Ben Wagland at the two slot.
Women's tennis - The Kentucky women's tennis team knocked off No. 55 Ohio State and No. 54 Indiana throughout the course of the week, taking both matches 4-3. - Freshman Nadia Ravita recorded two singles win in the No. 1 slot to go along with two doubles wins in the No. 1 slot, paired with junior Caitlin McGraw. - Senior Jessica Stiles went 2-0 on the week in the No. 2 singles spot, taking both matches in straight sets.
Women's golf - The UK women's golf team began their 2013 spring season with an eighth place finish in the 15-team field at the Lady Puerto Rico Classic Feb. 10-12. - Senior Ashleigh Albrecht was the low finisher for the Wildcats, tying for 14th at 7-over-par. - Junior Liz Breed and freshman Sarah Harris were tied for 28th at 12-over, while freshman Cylia Damerau placed tied for 34th at 13-over.
Upcoming schedule Tuesday, Feb. 19 Women's tennis hosts Miami (OH) - 4:00 p.m. Swimming and diving at SEC Championships (College, Station, Texas) Men's golf at Mobile Bay Intercollegiate (Mobile, Ala.)
Wednesday, Feb. 20 Men's basketball hosts Vanderbilt - 8:00 p.m. Swimming and diving at SEC Championships (College, Station, Texas)
Thursday, Feb. 21 Swimming and diving at SEC Championships (College, Station, Texas)
Friday, Feb. 22 Baseball vs. Elon - Noon (Myrtle Beach, S.C.) Softball vs. Presbyterian - 2:00 p.m. (Spartanburg, S.C.) Gymnastics at Florida - 7:00 p.m. Swimming and diving at SEC Championships (College, Station, Texas) Track and field at SEC Championships (Fayetteville, Ark.)
Saturday, Feb. 23 Softball vs. Georgetown - Noon (Spartanburg, S.C.) Women's tennis at Kansas - 1:00 p.m. Softball vs. USC Upstate - 2:00 p.m. (Spartanburg, S.C.) Baseball vs. Coastal Carolina - 3:00 p.m. (Myrtle Beach, S.C.) Men's basketball hosts Missouri - 9:00 p.m. Swimming and diving at SEC Championships (College Station, Texas) Track and field at SEC Championships (Fayetteville, Ark.) Rifle at GARC Championships (Oxford, Miss.)
Sunday, Feb. 24 Softball vs. Howard - 10:00 a.m. (Spartanburg, S.C.) Men's tennis at Samford - 10:00 a.m. Baseball vs. Kansas State - 11:00 a.m. (Myrtle Beach, S.C.) Men's tennis vs. Jacksonville State - 2:00 p.m. (Birmingham, Ala.) Women's basketball at LSU - 3:00 p.m. Track and field at SEC Championships (Fayetteville, Ark.) Rifle at GARC Championships (Oxford, Miss.)
Men's basketball - Kentucky earned a hard-fought 72-62 win over visiting Auburn on Saturday to push its win-streak to a season-long five games. - The Wildcats received another double-double effort from freshman Nerlens Noel who posted 10 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. - Sophomore Kyle Wiltjer led five players in double-figures with a team-best 14 points. Sophomore Ryan Harrow and freshman Willie Cauley-Stein both notched 12 points, with senior Julius Mays pitching in with 10.
Women's basketball - Kentucky improved to 21-3 overall, 9-2 in the SEC with hard-fought road wins at Arkansas and Vanderbilt last week. - Against the Razorbacks, the Wildcats rallied from an 11-point first half deficit for an 80-74 overtime win. Sophomore guard Bria Goss scored 16 of her team-high 17 points in the second half and overtime after not starting the game for the first time in her career, a stretch of 57 consecutive starts. - On Sunday vs. Vanderbilt, A'dia Mathies put on quite the show by charting a season-high 28 points on 10-of-17 shooting, including 5-of-9 from beyond the arc. She also dished out a game-high five assists and three steals. She has now reached double figures in 22-of-24 games, including 15 in a row. The 28 points moved her up to No. 3 on UK's all-time scoring list with 1,815.
Gymnastics - No. 18 Kentucky tied No. 6 Georgia 195.825 on Friday night in Memorial Coliseum. - The team score was a season-high for the Wildcats. - Audrey Harrison won the individual all-around title for the second straight week with a career-high 39.3. - Harrison also won floor exercise, and she now has eight individual titles this season. - Harrison has four all-around crowns this season, and they all have come in SEC competition. - Jill Chappel, Shelby Hilton and Shannon Mitchell all tied or set new event career highs on Friday.
Softball - The UK softball team started its 2013 season in style, going 4-2 against some of the best teams in the nation at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz. UK got the season started fast with a nine-inning, 3-2 victory over No. 3 California in its season opener before defeating No. 20 Stanford in the weekend finale. UK also defeated Oregon State - who was also receiving votes in both preseason polls. - Junior pitcher Lauren Cumbess was the difference in the huge UK victory, pitching all nine innings, allowing only six hits and two runs while striking out six. Cumbess also went 2-for-4 at the plate with two RBI - including the game winner. - Five Wildcats closed the opening weekend with a batting average well over .350, including freshman Nikki Sagermann, who leads the team with a .429 mark. Junior Ginny Carroll leads the team in RBI with six, while senior Alice O'Brien has scored a team-high seven runs. - On top of Cumbess' pitching performance against Cal, freshman hurler Kelsey Nunley was UK's star pitcher on the weekend, going 3-0 with wins against WMU, OSU and Stanford. In all, Nunley threw 17.1 innings, allowing seven earned runs while striking out a team-high 19.
Men's tennis - The Kentucky men's tennis team climbed to No. 7 in this week's ITA rankings, after starting out the season 6-0. The Wildcats dropped their first match of 2013 in a back-and-forth affair 4-3 on Saturday night at No. 19 Illinois. - In the loss, No. 94 Anthony Rossi upped his record to 6-1 on court one singles with a 6-4, 6-4 win, while Charles Minc improved to 4-0 on the season with a 6-3, 6-3 win on court five. - The Wildcats won the doubles point for the seventh time in seven tries with wins on courts two and three.
Women's tennis - The Kentucky women's tennis team fell to No. 59 Tulane 6-1 on Saturday in New Orleans. - Freshman Kirsten Lewis recorded Kentucky's lone win of the match, defeating Caroline Magnusson 0-6, 7-6 (1-0) (7). - Freshman Nadia Ravita lost her first match of the season, falling 6-0, 6-4 to Klara Vyskocilova in the No. 1 slot.
Track and field - Cally Macumber won the 3,000 meters at the Husky Classic on Saturday. - Macumber's time of 8:59.98 set a new indoor school record. - Chelsea Oswald took eighth with a PR 9:06.64, third-fastest indoor time in school history. - The rest of the Wildcats spent the weekend competing at the Tyson Invitational on the Arkansas campus. - Bradley Szypka finished second in the shot put with a PR-tying throw of 18.50m/60-08.50. - Keffri Neal took second in the men's 800-meter final with a PR, team-best time of 1:49.79. - Allison Peare ran a season-best, team-leading 2:09.04 in the women's 800 meters to finish fourth - Keith Hayes produced a season-best time of 7.79 in the 60-meter hurdles finals to place fourth.
Women's golf - The UK women's golf team began their 2013 spring season at the Lady Puerto Classic in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico at the Rio Mar Beach Resort River Course. - The Wildcats opened up the invitational on Sunday carding a 13-over-par, 301 and are currently in seventh place. Senior Ashleigh Albrecht recorded the low round for UK with a 2-over-par, 74. - The tournament will resume on Monday at 7 a.m. ET and the tournament is scheduled to wrap up with a final round on Tuesday beginning at 6:30 a.m.
Monday, Feb. 11 Women's golf at Lady Puerto Rico Classic (Puerto Rico)
Tuesday, Feb. 12 Men's tennis hosts Notre Dame - 1:00 p.m. Women's tennis at Ohio State - 4:00 p.m. Men's basketball at Florida - 7:00 p.m. Men's tennis hosts Eastern Kentucky - 7:00 p.m. Women's golf at Lady Puerto Rico Classic (Puerto Rico)
Thursday, Feb. 14 Softball vs. Cal Poly - 6:30 p.m. (San Diego, Calif.) Women's basketball hosts South Carolina - 7:00 p.m. Softball at San Diego State - 9:00 p.m. (San Diego, Calif.)
Friday, Feb. 15 Baseball vs. UNC Asheville - Noon (Spartanburg, S.C.) Softball vs. Washington - 2:15 p.m. (San Diego, Calif.) Gymnastics hosts Missouri - 7:00 p.m. Men's tennis at ITA National Indoor Championships (Seattle, Wash.)
Saturday, Feb. 16 Softball vs. UC Riverside - Noon (San Diego, Calif.) Men's basketball at Tennessee - 1:00 p.m. Baseball vs. USC Upstate - 4:00 p.m. (Spartanburg, S.C.) Softball vs. Oklahoma - 4:30 p.m. (San Diego, Calif.) Rifle hosts NCAA Qualifier Men's tennis at ITA National Indoor Championships (Seattle, Wash.)
Sunday, Feb. 17 Women's tennis hosts Indiana - 11:00 a.m. Baseball vs. Niagara - Noon (Spartanburg, S.C.) Women's tennis hosts Northern Kentucky - 6:00 p.m. Rifle hosts NCAA Qualifier Men's tennis at ITA National Indoor Championships (Seattle, Wash.)
UK sophomore Shelby Hilton propelled UK to a team-high score this season with her performances on vault and uneven bars. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Kentucky's 195.825 tie with No. 6 Georgia is huge for the UK gymnastics program. When head coach Tim Garrison and his athletes look back on the season and realize what they accomplished on Feb. 8, 2013, they'll smile and remember the great night they had and the late drama that led to it.
But at least for this moment, Garrison knows that this is just the beginning of something special.
While greedy might not be an appropriate term after Friday night's historic result, Garrison continues to ask more of his gymnasts. He thinks there are even brighter days ahead.
"We're excited, there's no doubt about it," said Garrison. "But what I told the athletes was we've closed the gap, but we haven't closed it entirely. We've made some strides. We're doing a lot of the big things well, but we're doing a lot of the little things not so well."
You could take Garrison's stance on his team's performance tonight a couple of different ways.
One: Garrison will never be happy with the way his athletes perform and good is never good enough.
Or two: Garrison strives for greatness, sees untapped potential in his athletes, and he feels it's his duty to bring the best out of them every day.
If you haven't figured it out, it's the latter.
Garrison has high hopes for his team, and he'll tell you straight up that he sees remarkable performances from the gymnasts every day in the practice gym. The progression of the team so far this season would suggest that Garrison is onto something.
Even the athletes are taking note of the progress they've made.
"We are definitely going in the right direction," said sophomore Shelby Hilton. "We've worked really hard, especially for tonight. We've been doing one rounds and preparing for our routines to hit and not make the little mistakes, so I think we really accomplished that tonight."
Last week against No. 6 LSU, Kentucky struggled on uneven bars. The Wildcats were forced to count a fall in the event and it ended up costing UK an opportunity to catch the Tigers. On this night, UK had no critical missteps, and as Georgia struggled mightily on the vault, Kentucky capitalized on the floor to pull within tenths of a point of the Bulldogs.
Tiarra Phipps led off with a 9.775 to get the ball rolling. Alexis Gross, who had a huge meet up until this point, lost a tenth when she stepped out of bounds. But the Cats ran off four straight scores of 9.8 or better to pick up their teammate like they've done all season.
Kenzie Hedges hit a 9.8. Shannon Mitchell a career-high tying 9.825. Audrey Harrison - no surprises here - shined with a season-high and career-high tying 9.9.
Needing a 9.825 to tie, floor anchor Kayla Hartley came up with her best performance of the evening.
The team swarmed Hartley knowing that she had just done something special. How special was still the question each member of the Memorial Coliseum crowd was left asking.
As the judges submitted their scores, Hartley earned an average of 9.8, falling just .025 points shy of pulling even with Georgia.
As both teams went to the floor for the final score announcement, Kentucky was proud of what it had done on the night, but the Cats knew they had missed an opportunity yet again to beat one of the best teams in the country and Southeastern Conference. Harrison, for the second week in a row and the fourth time in SEC competition, earned the all-around title with a final score of 39.3.
Not sold on the final outcome, Garrison and the staff made a final inquiry to the judges to review Hartley's final performance.
The judges went back to review the video. After further review, Hartley was awarded the addition .025 points she needed to help the Wildcats pull even with Georgia at 195.825 and give UK its best overall team performance of the season.
Still, Garrison thinks his team is only scratching the surface.
"In fact, we could be a lot better than this," said Garrison. "If we look around and we look at some of the things we've done, which we do every Monday after a meet, we look at mistakes and 'this we can fix, that we can fix.' There are a lot of things we can clean up and make a heck of a lot better."
A few varitions in the Kentucky lineups Friday night may be a contributing factor to as to why UK turned in their best night of the season. Garrison decided to tweak the lineups and move some athletes around to try and put them in better situations to succeed.
So far, even if it's just one night, the payoff has been huge. But he may be not done just yet.
"We might even play with it a little bit more," said Garrison. "I have a few other ideas with some athletes that are coming on in some events that they aren't even in right now. I think they paid off for us."
One of the athletes that seemed to benefit from the tweaks was Hilton. Garrison removed her from the floor lineup Friday, but stuck her on the anchor of the vault. She came up with an important 9.825 to finish the event, and then went over to uneven bars and gave UK a career-high-tying performance with an impressive routine that garnered a 9.825.
"We took her out of the floor lineup this week, but she performed outstanding on bars and she performed great on vault," said Garrison. "I think putting her in the sixth spot on vault has helped her tremendously."
For tonight, Kentucky can relax and live in the moment.
The Cats will enjoy their performance, spend time with friends and family and then Monday start preparing for Missouri trying to capitalize on the momentum they built against Georgia Friday night.
Garrison and his team will look back on this night when the season is over and see it as a huge night for their season and for their program, but the team's memory will be short when they get back in the gym next week.
"We'll smile a little bit about it tonight," said Garrison, "But it's a 195.825 and a tie of the number six team in the country. But it's just that: a 195.825. We're capable of 196-plus and that's where we're headed."
Sara Shipley (left) hits for a career-high on uneven bars with a 9.8. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics)
There's no denying that the Southeastern Conference is one of the top conferences in collegiate gymnastics. As far as Kentucky's opponents go over the last two weeks, the UK gymnastics team is facing a murderer's row in a recent and upcoming stretch of SEC matchups. Last week it was two-time defending champions and No. 5 Alabama. Friday night, Kentucky went toe-to-toe with No. 6 LSU.
Though the Wildcats fell to the Tigers, 195.875-195.25, and head coach Tim Garrison doesn't believe in moral victories, Friday night's performance exhibited great potential for just how good this team could be later in the season.
"Obviously, we're disappointed in the outcome tonight, but there's a lot to be encouraged about," said Garrison. "I keep saying it and I can't wait to see it."
While Garrison continues to seek the consistency on the competition floor that his team brings in the practice gymnasium every day, he has seen that steadiness in junior Audrey Harrison. The junior earned her second all-around title in the last three weeks and third of the season with a 39.225, tying LSU's first-team All-American Rheagan Courville.
Harrison earned her second all-around title of the season at Excite Night when UK knocked off Arkansas, and she's been a model of consistency for the Wildcats all season long.
She proved it again against LSU with a career high 9.85 on beam and tied a season-high on her floor-exercise routine.
Harrison was encouraged by her team's effort Friday night as the Wildcats bounced back with a 195-plus score after earning a 194.8 at Alabama. She, like Garrison, sees the performance for what UK could be if the Cats clean things up.
"I'm proud of what we did tonight," said Harrison. "We had mistakes that were not usual for us. It was rare to see those things happen. It kind of gives us hope for the future because we know those things can be fixed."
Kentucky's ability to keep its composure was particularly impressive as UK bounced back on beam and floor despite a couple of tough breaks. The Wildcats started off strong on the vault with a team score of 48.825 highlighted by sophomore Shelby Hilton's career-high 9.875 to conclude the event.
The Wildcats then went to the uneven bars, an event that UK had seen much success in so far this season. Two costly mistakes wounded the Cats, however, and Kentucky was forced to count a fall in the event to knock the team score down to 48.500.
The Cats had no way of knowing at the time, but as UK finished up strong and LSU stumbled a bit down the stretch, the mistakes made on the bars potentially kept the Wildcats from picking up an upset victory over the talented LSU Tigers.
"(If) We hit that event right there, we're right there neck and neck," said Garrison. "Then we start putting on a little bit of pressure because we're so close, but you never can tell what will happen."
Garrison knows that his team is athletically capable of performing at a high level. His athletes pull off their routines daily in the practice gym. He's hopeful that as the gymnasts get more and more exposure to competitive atmospheres that those routines will manifest themselves in meets.
"I don't see these kinds of things that I saw on bars today in the gym," said Garrison. "I don't see the things we saw in vault today in the gym.
"I thought beam was great. I thought floor was great with a couple of little minor things. The last floor athletes that went really performed well. So we're real close. We're really, really close. We just haven't crossed the bridge yet."
The second half of the meet was much more encouraging as UK bounced back in a big way with performances on beam and floor.
Trailing 98.050-97.325 at the midway point, Kentucky looked to the beam to get back on track.
Junior Kayla Sienkowski led the event off with a career-high-tying 9.825. Harrison then earned the highest score of the night on the beam for UK with a career-high 9.85. To top it off, sophomore Sara Shipley earned her second career-high performance of the night with a 9.8 to pair with a 9.8 on the uneven bars. UK would finish beam with its highest score of the night, a 48.975.
Kentucky had a huge hill to climb to earn the victory heading into the floor event. The Wildcats were solid there, including sophomore Kenzie Hedges' season-high-tying 9.825. Harrison tied her season high with a 9.85 and junior Kayla Hartley finished the night off with a 9.775 as UK ended the event with a 48.95.
LSU clinched the meet, however, with a 48.750 that was enough to hold off UK's late rally.
Though Kentucky dropped its second straight meet for its third loss of the season, the Cats are back on the right track. In fact, Garrison was so encouraged by what he saw Friday night that he's willing to call his team one of the best in the country. If Kentucky gets it together soon, the rest of the SEC better take notice.
"We're an excellent team," said Garrison. "We're just not hitting like an excellent team. As we get more confident and start believing in that fact, then we'll be perform better, and when we perform better, we'll be able to hang with a lot of people in this conference and in the country.
"Watch out because we're going to be a force to be reckoned with, no doubt."
The UK gymnastics team has picked each other up in crucial situations in the early part of 2013. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics)
Gymnastics, by nature, is a very individual sport. In each event, the athlete competes alone on bars, vault, floor and beam.
After each individual performance, gymnasts are judged and awarded a score. And that's that. On to the next event.
The UK gymnastics team has had some incredible individual athletes over the years, most notably Jenny Hansen, who holds program records for high scores in each individual event.
Junior all-around performer Audrey Harrison etched her name into the record books last weekend at Excite Night at the Kentucky Classic when she became just the 12th Wildcat to record a 9.9 on the uneven bars.
That 9.9 score, however, was crucial for Kentucky against No. 9 Arkansas. Harrison, currently Kentucky's lone all-around performer, anchored the uneven bars as the sixth and final gymnast to compete for UK. The preceding gymnasts had difficulties in their routines.
Arkansas had already scored a 48.350 after having a few mistakes of its own. After a misstep from Kayla Sienkowski, Kayla Hartley, Shelby Hilton and Alexis Gross each came to the rescue with solid performances and needed one more strong effort from their all-around ace. On each event, the top five scores are counted toward the overall meet total. With good scores from Hartley, Hilton and Gross to go with Sara Shipley's 9.8 to open the event, Harrison could erase her Sienkowski's slipup.
Harrison, as she's done all season, came through in the clutch.
She breezed through her routine nearly flawlessly. She could feel that something special was in the making. She made the final release into her dismount and stuck the landing.
While it was a special performance for Harrison, it was a momentum builder for the team. She had just helped Kentucky clinch its second event of the night after winning vault. But most importantly, she picked up her teammates when they needed her most.
"She hit that 9.9 bar routine like we needed and she finishes up events that we need her to step up on," said sophomore Alexis Gross of Harrison. "After (Sienkowski) fell, I had a bit of a rocky bar routine, and she went out there and hit that 9.9, and that stuff shows how mentally strong our juniors are."
On some of Kentucky's less successful teams in the past, athletes may have been more concerned about individual success during team struggles. This year's team puts the collective unit first and worries about personal success only with the intent of improving the team.
That's what Kentucky's early-season success has been all about. The team has been far from flawless, as head coach Tim Garrison is waiting for UK's breakthrough performance when the Wildcats put an entire meet together, but they have done a fantastic job of picking up the pieces for one another when things go awry.
They have been doing that since the first meet of the season when they traveled to California-Berkeley. When the normally sure-footed sophomore Shannon Mitchell fell off the beam, her teammates came to the rescue to cancel out her score.
"Shannon never falls on beam," said Gross. "Most of us looked at it and said, 'OK, now we have to step up for her.' When I made my routine, I told her, 'This one's for you.' "
And the Wildcats have been picking each other up ever since.
"From day one, you learn that," said Gross. "Five scores count, so if someone falls, everyone needs to pick up the slack as a team.
"It's not about individuals anymore when you get to college. It's about getting the best score for the team. It's just something that's ingrained in your brain."
While each individual event may only be performed by one athlete, the pressure of earning a perfect score is lifted when dependable and talented teammates surround one another other like they do for this team. And they never really know who it's going to be from week-to-week because, in reality, it could be and has been anyone.
Though Mitchell fell in the first meet at California-Berkeley, her performances against Arkansas left some of the best impressions of the night.
Mitchell stuck a high-score of 9.825 on the beam last Friday in her specialty event. She then turned around and gave a career performance on the floor with another 9.825 that led to her being awarded two team awards by Garrison for outstanding performances in each event.
"It was a lot of fun," said Mitchell. "I love showing my routine off on floor. On beam, I knew I just had to get up there and be confident."
Oh, and Mitchell is a walk-on.
Mitchell is a part of one Kentucky's greatest strengths that allows UK to be so versatile yet selective. It's been UK's strength in numbers that has allowed it to get off to its best start in program history.
"We have a lot more depth than last year," said Mitchell. "We know that if someone goes down, which we hope doesn't happen, we know that we have the seventh spot to step up and be strong."
This team, this collection of individuals, is a tight-knit group that performs for each of its members. The Cats perform and compete for the betterment of this UK gymnastics team. And you just never know where or when you're going to get a key contribution in the lineup.
That's mostly because it is hard to pick from a pool of 12. Garrison is using 12 different gymnasts in his lineup. Arkansas, by comparison, only used 10 on Friday night.
"It's all about you coming here and you do the best you can," said Garrison. "You win the job and it's yours. They're made aware of it very, very early. As a matter of fact, they're made aware of it in the recruiting process."
Scholarship or walk-on. Freshman or junior (UK has no seniors, which makes this team's start all the more impressive). If you're one of the six best in the gym, you're going to perform in that event no matter who you are.
Kentucky currently has 10 scholarship athletes. Garrison carries five walk-ons. Currently, three of those walk-ons hold a total of five lineup spots.
Perhaps the best example of Garrison's philosophy was displayed against Arkansas when freshman Marissa Beucler made her collegiate debut on beam. A January enrollee, Beucler had just been ruled eligible the day before the meet. When Friday rolled around, it was Beucler on the beam delivering a 9.825, which tied her with Mitchell for the team's high score in the event.
It was an impressive debut for an athlete who was facing the bright lights for the first time in her collegiate career.
"Down there on the floor with all these people watching, the first time after everything she's dealt with, she hit her set when she had to," said Garrison. "I think she's going to work her way into more lineups. There's no doubt about that."
As the competition builds in practice to earn spots in Kentucky's seemingly stacked lineup, some will see their roles increase, while others will see them diminish.
Gross, who was often an all-around performer last season due to small numbers and team needs, has focused mostly on beam and uneven bars this season. Now she is needed in a different capacity.
Though she continues to strive to be an all-around performer again someday, Gross, not to mention the rest of the team, is on board with letting the best six compete as long as the team keeps improving and winning.
"To be honest, that's the greatest thing," said Gross. "Last year, we had a smaller team. I did all-around and stuff like that was necessary to pick up the slack. This year, we can put our best six out there and I know that those are the best six people in each event."
Men's basketball - Following its most complete victory of the season within SEC action, the Wildcats conclude its two-game road swing through the Heart of Dixie at Alabama on Tuesday. - Sophomore Kyle Wiltjer turned in another 17-point performance, while classmate Ryan Harrow reached double figures for the eighth straight game and dished out a UK career-high eight assists in the win. Freshman Nerlens Noel continued his imposing defensive prowess with a career-high seven blocks to couple with 10 points and nine rebounds. - Alabama enters the matchup following a one-point victory over Texas A&M on Saturday. The Anthony Grant-led Crimson Tide are 11-6 overall on the season and own a 3-1 record within SEC play.
Women's basketball - No. 5 Kentucky improved to 18-1 overall, 6-0 in the SEC with commanding wins over Mississippi State and Auburn last week in Memorial Coliseum. The Cats are now riding a school-record 33-game home winning streak and the nation's longest overall winning streak at 17. - The 100-47 win over Mississippi State was the largest margin of victory over an SEC opponent in school history. Junior center DeNesha Stallworth led four players in double digits with a UK career-high 25 points in just 24 minutes of action. Senior All-America candidate A'dia Mathies followed with 21 points. UK forced 25 turnovers and won the rebounding battle 46-20. - In UK's "We Back Pat" game vs. Auburn, defense was again the name of the game. The Wildcats held the Tigers to just 21 first half points, taking a 51-21 lead at the break. Mathies led the way with 16 points in the opening stanza. She went on to notch her second straight 20-point game with a season-high 24 points on a near perfect shooting night. Mathies hit 8-of-9 from the field, including 5-of-6 from the 3-point line and 3-of-4 from the charity stripe. Gymnastics - The No. 14 University of Kentucky gymnastics team defeated No. 9 Arkansas in convincing fashion in front of more than 5,600 fans inside Memorial Coliseum on Friday. - The Wildcats took the meet 195.5-193.075 while winning every team and individual event. - The Wildcats continued the unprecedented start to the season as Friday's win gave the program back-to-back SEC wins for the first time ever. All four wins this season have come against higher-ranked opponents. - Kentucky is off to the best start in school history as the Wildcats have never before topped 195 in all three meets to begin the season. - Audrey Harrison stole the Excite Night at the Kentucky Classic show winning the individual all-around competition for the second consecutive week. The Knoxville, Tenn., native's season high 39.275 was highlighted by her 9.9 to anchor on uneven bars with a score, which ties for her career high. - Harrison won individual titles on bars and floor exercise (9.85). The junior now has four event titles this year and 11 all-time.
Rifle - Kentucky knocked off two top-15 teams over the weekend in Oxford, Miss., defeating No. 11 Ole Miss (4670 - 4611) on Saturday and No. 10 Memphis (4646 - 4598) on Sunday. - Senior Heather Greathouse led the Wildcats in their win over Ole Miss, shooting an 1176 aggregate score. Freshman Connor Davis delivered a 594 in air rifle. - Senior Ed Ryznar had a strong showing in Kentucky's win over Memphis, shooting a 574 in smallbore and 588 in air rifle. - Sophomore Cody Manning recorded a new personal best aggregate score of 1162 in Sunday's match with Memphis.
Men's tennis - The Kentucky men's tennis team got off to a 2-0 start to the 2013 season with two 7-0 wins over Northern Kentucky and Morehead State. - The pair of wins were the first in the head coaching career of Cedric Kauffmann. - No. 15 Tom Jomby and No. 94 Anthony Rossi each earned singles wins on Sunday, while Jomby and Kevin Lai went 2-0 on the day in doubles. - UK next takes to the court on Wednesday at No. 22 Indiana in Bloomington for the Wildcats first of 15 matches versus ranked teams in 2013.
Women's tennis - The Kentucky women's tennis team opened the 2013 season with two dominating wins, defeating Morehead State 7-0 and Belmont 6-1 on Saturday. - Freshman Nadia Ravita opened her collegiate career with two singles wins in the No. 1 spot and two doubles wins paired with junior Caitlin McGraw in the No. 1 doubles slot. - Sophomore Stephanie Fox failed to drop a set in two singles wins on Saturday, taking both contests 6-0, 6-0.
Tuesday, Jan. 22 Men's basketball at Alabama - 9:00 p.m.
Wednesday, Jan. 23 Men's tennis at Indiana - 2:00 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 24 Women's basketball at South Carolina - 7:00 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 25 Track and field hosts Rod McCravy Memorial - 10:00 a.m. Men's tennis hosts Michigan State - 1:00 p.m. Gymnastics at Alabama - 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 26 Track and field hosts Rod McCravy Memorial - 10:00 a.m. Swimming and diving host Louisville - 12:30 p.m. Men's basketball hosts LSU - 4:00 p.m. Men's tennis hosts Texas/South Carolina
Audrey Harrison earned the all-around title in Friday's 195.5-193.075 victory over Arkansas. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Last weekend, the No. 14 ranked Kentucky gymnastics team did something it had not done since 1996 when it defeated Auburn. This weekend, Kentucky pulled off a feat it had never accomplished at all.
With last weekend's victory over No. 13 Auburn and Friday night's win over No. 9 Arkansas, Kentucky won back-to-back Southeastern Conference dual meets for the first time in the history of UK gymnastics.
The historic win came in Kentucky's home opener, Excite Night at the Kentucky Classic. The night started with an elaborate flame show and the Wildcats remained hot throughout the competition defeating the Razorbacks, 195.500-193.075.
"I think any time you can get a win, especially back-to-back wins in the SEC, you don't take it for granted," said Garrison. "They're hard to come by in this conference. It's the toughest gymnastics conference in the country."
Despite competing in the aforementioned "toughest conference in the country," UK is now 3-0 in against conference opponents and is continuing on a record pace for the program. However, Kentucky was far from perfect Friday night.
The Wildcats got off to a very slow start in the meet in front a jam-packed Memorial Coliseum on the vault, but Kenzie Hedges and Holly Cunningham put up two huge performances to save the event, scoring 9.8 and 9.825 respectively to close out the vault with a team score of 48.75.
The momentum picked up from there.
As UK shifted to the uneven bars, the Wildcats grabbed a stranglehold of the meet that they would not relinquish.
Kayla Sienkowski got things started with a strong 9.8 to lead off the uneven bars, but things got dicey when Shannon Mitchell broke her routine and finished with a 9.1. The team rallied behind her and put up solid scores. When it became Audrey Harrison's turn on the bars, she was prepared to deliver the most special performance of the night.
"When I'm going through my routine, I get kind of excited as I'm doing it," said Harrison. "It felt really great. It's one of my favorite feelings hitting a routine, so I was really excited."
The routine earned her a career- and season-high-tying 9.9 for the event as she stuck the landing. It was the jolt that Kentucky needed that carried UK the rest of the way as UK had beaten Arkansas each of the first two events.
From there, the Cats put up their best event score of the evening on the beam, earning a 49.0 that was highlighted by Shannon Mitchell and Marissa Beucler's 9.825 scores that they posted back-to-back.
The 9.825 for Mitchell was a career best on the beam. For Beucler, Friday night was the first meet that she had competed in all season. It was a great start out of the gate for freshman in her lone event of the competition.
The Wildcats had a comfortable lead heading into the floor event with a chance to clinch the meet. Mitchell followed up her beam performance with the second-best floor performance of the night, earning a career-high 9.825. And as she had done all evening, Harrison followed Mitchell with the best score in the floor event with a season-high 9.85.
With both teams completing their final events, Kentucky had defeated Arkansas on the beam, 49.0-48.675 while also taking the floor event, 195.5-144.4. The wins in the last two events capped off a sweep of all four events over the-ninth ranked team in the country.
Harrison walked away with the all-around individual victory scoring 39.275. She knew that she had performed well on the evening, but even she didn't expect the final result.
"It was exciting because I didn't add up my scores or anything," said Harrison. "It was surprising but really exciting too."
Harrison's performance was much welcomed as she stepped up in the clutch while some of her other teammates made mistakes along the way. Her steady performance helped carry the Cats to the signature victory.
"Audrey doesn't have too many events that are just big and flashy," said Garrison. "She's getting pretty flashy on bars, which is great to see because she's had it in her and now it's finally coming out.
"She's just steady on the other events. She just goes out there and does her stuff. She's cute, she smiles, the crowd loves her, and we'll take it every time."
Kentucky did not set a record for its highest score Friday night. In fact, it was only their second-highest meet score of the season. But it was an important performance nonetheless. Garrison knows, however, that there is still plenty of room for improvement.
"We could have done a lot of things better," said Garrison. "Are we happy? Yes. But as I keep saying, this team is better than we're performing right now. We have a ways to go, but I feel that we're going to get there."
Garrison has made sure to continue to hammer away the fact that his team just needs to worry about itself and everything else will fall into place. Despite some errors, UK was resilient and stuck to the game plan only to later make history once again.
"We don't set out to break those records," said Garrison. "We set out to do well and get better every week. That's what we're doing and I think the records are a product of that instead of the flipside."