Dukes Earns All-America Honors at NCAA Championships

FORT WORTH, Texas – Kentucky freshmen Sidney Dukes and Alex Hyland represented the Wildcats at the NCAA gymnastics national championships as individual all-around competitors on Friday afternoon, with a strong performance from Dukes resulting in Kentucky’s fourth ever gymnast to become an All-American.

After a bumpy start, Dukes took to the balance beam, executing a nearly flawless routine en route to a 9.8875. The score would stand to be the fourth highest in the first session, deeming the rookie a First Team All-American.

Dukes becomes the first All-American for the Wildcats since 2002, in which alum Aronda Primault earned second team honors. She joins UK hall of famer Jenny Hansen as the only other First Team All-American in the program’s history. 

The 9.8875 marked the third highest score on balance beam for a UK gymnast all-time at the NCAA semifinals, with Hansen posting 9.95 and 9.925 scores on the apparatus over 20 years earlier.

“I’m so proud that both Sidney [Dukes] and Alex [Hyland] are here, representing Kentucky gymnastics,” fifth-year head coach Tim Garrison said. “Obviously they’re representing themselves – they came as individuals, as all-arounders – but they’re here representing our entire team. They are an example of where this team is heading and their performance is proof of that. To have two freshmen step out on to this big of a stage and compete in the biggest meet of the year and leave with a first team All-American is impressive. They’re a great reflection of where our team is headed.”

For Dukes, the day began with a rough outing on bars, as the rookie from Tyler, Texas, scored an 8.9375 in the opening routine. Dukes rebounded in a major way following bars, posting a tremendous 9.8875 on beam, eventually earning her All-America honors. Dukes came off a bye before scoring a 9.7875 on floor. She wrapped up the day on vault, posting her second best score of the day with a 9.8125. The first-year competitor finished the meet with a 38.425 in all-around in her NCAA championship debut. 

“The most impressive part of her [Dukes’] performance, was it wasn’t her first event,” Garrison commented. “She struggled on bars. She got up for the first event of the national championships – on a podium, TV cameras everywhere – and she didn’t perform as well as she is capable of doing. And what does she do to answer that? She steps up the very next routine and becomes a First Team All-American. It goes back to what our team has done all year. We get knocked down or we have a mishap and we get back up and recover. It shows this group’s resilience and that we’re headed in the right direction.”

Hyland began the day with a strong showing on floor, earning a 9.8 with five of the six judges awarding her the score. The freshman from Foxborough, Mass., followed up the performance with another solid outing, scoring a 9.7625 on vault. Hyland then had a bye rotation before returning to bars, where she scored a 9.65. The rookie closed out the day on her strongest rotation in balance beam, scoring a 9.825. The routines combined for a 39.0375, good for the fifteenth highest score in the initial session.

“I thought that Alex starting on floor was great for her confidence headed into the day,” Garrison added. “She performed her routine about as well as she is capable of performing it. She did a great job on vault as well. She was very steady throughout the day. Bars could have gone a bit better, but I was proud of her to fight through it. When she finished up on beam, she earned a 9.825 which is a solid score. At this meet, the margin for error is so small that when you get a 9.825 you don’t feel like you’ve done a great job, but she did. She just didn’t have that outstanding performance that she’s capable of having. She was just outside that All-American range today. 

“It was a solid, steady day for her, and I think she’s going to leave here feeling like she left some tenths on the floor that she’s going to want to go back and pick up with more hard work in the gym.”

Hyland and Dukes became the 13th and 14th UK gymnasts to qualify for the NCAA championships in program history with their berths to the 2016 national championships. Both qualified as all-arounders, as Hyland earned her first ever collegiate all-around title after scoring a 39.175 to take the event crown in Tuscaloosa, Ala., two weeks prior. Dukes placed second overall with a 39.125, edging Boise State’s Sandra Collantes in a tiebreaker. The duo also marked the eighth and ninth members of the program to compete in all-around at the national championships. 

Dukes led Kentucky during the regular season on 24 occasions this season with 10 career event titles, while Hyland led UK on 11 occasions with five event titles before the postseason. 

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