Freshmen Dukes, Stuart Making Immediate Impact

A pair of freshman gymnasts are already making their marks for the Kentucky Wildcats this season. And the best could be yet to come for this dazzling duo.

Katie Stuart won her first two career all-around titles last weekend and Sidney Dukes won SEC Freshman of the Week the week before. 

Stuart claimed the all-around title in a home meet against the Missouri Tigers, and followed that by claiming the title at the Ball State Think Pink meet. Stuart tied both her best floor performance and best vault performance at the Missouri meet, scoring a 9.825 in both events. She also drastically improved her career best on the balance beam, with a score of 9.825.

“It was really exciting,” Stuart said of her all-around wins. “I hadn’t been in all-around, but I got put in and I got the opportunity and it was just so cool and everybody was so happy for me. It was a good feeling.”

Stuart talked about how the transition between high school and college is difficult, but it looks as if she has overcome the differences. 

“It was a lot at first, but it’s just like anything, it takes some getting used to,” she said. “Definitely different practices, and obviously high school to college is a good transition in itself, but I’ve had good teammates and coaches to help me with it, so it hasn’t been too terrible.”

Dukes also had a great weekend for the Wildcats. She tied her career-best score on the balance beam, scoring a 9.9 against Missouri. But it was in a match against Alabama where Dukes made a name for herself.  In that match, Dukes scored her personal best in the all-around, 39.375, and was named the SEC Freshman of the Week for her effort. 

“It feels amazing being Freshman of the Week for the SEC,” Dukes said. “I’ve worked really really hard for this all preseason long and I’m really excited for the rest of the season because the team is ripping it up right now. We’re really excited to face the rest of the season and hopefully get some more accomplishments.”

Dukes has been working on improving her confidence and being a team player.  

“It’s really different coming from club gymnastics where it’s basically focused on your individual self,” she said. “And then now, focusing on the team and doing things as a team aspect has been very challenging but very rewarding because I’ve got 18 other girls behind my back, helping me through the way. “

Both Stuart and Dukes have played huge roles the Wildcats all season, and in doing so, they’ve also become close.

“We’re teammates and we’re really good friends too,” Stuart said. “Obviously, we live right next to each other. We really just motivate each other in the best way, happy whoever wins, and however we can help out the team.” 

With Stuart and Dukes, as well as a number of other freshmen on the roster, the future looks bright for Kentucky gymnastics.