Two Wildcats Tie for Event Titles on Season-High Excite Night
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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Competing for the second time in five days to open the season, the No. 13 Kentucky gymnastics team recorded a season-high score by over 0.600 points with a 195.600 Friday on Excite Night in Memorial Coliseum.
The Wildcats (2-1, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) finished ahead of No. 24 Arizona State's 194.400 and second to No. 2 LSU, who scored a 196.600. In front of 5,105 fans, UK improved to 7-2 on Excite Night in head coach Tim Garrison's four seasons. UK's 195.600 marks the first time in program history UK has recorded a score higher than 195.500 in the month of January.
"I'm happy with the performance tonight, it felt good to come home," UK head coach Tim Garrison said. "I'm seeing a lot of what I want to see, it's really a team effort right now and I think there's a lot of things to look forward to this year. The 195.600 at this point, when our rankings are based solely on score, we'll take it. Coming in second to the No. 2 team in the nation is some consolation."
Senior Shannon Mitchell and freshman Sydney Waltz each recorded two team-best scores and tied for the meet high on one event. Mitchell was one of two gymnasts to score a 9.900 on balance beam, while Waltz posted a career-high 9.850 on vault for a meet-high-tying score. Waltz also led UK on uneven bars with a career-best 9.875, while Mitchell was one of three Wildcats to post a 9.775 on floor.
It was a close battle between UK and the second-ranked Tigers. LSU held a 0.125-point lead after one event, but a meet-best 49.150 on uneven bars gave the Wildcats a 98.100-98.050 lead at the halfway point. Tied for the ninth-highest bars total in program history, it was one of three events where UK gymnasts recorded four season- or career-best totals.
LSU regained its lead on the third event, after a 49.300 on floor and Kentucky scored a season-high 48.825 on balance beam. UK closed with a 48.675 on floor and LSU ended the night with a 49.250 on vault. The Wildcats opened the competition with a 2015-best 48.950 on vault.
Kentucky returns to the road for a dual meet at Georgia on Jan. 24 at 4 p.m. ET. The contest between the two SEC foes will air live on the SEC Network + in addition to airing on ESPN2 the following day at 7 p.m. Bart Conner, Kathy Johnson-Clarke & Amanda Plufgard will be on the call from Athens, Ga.
The Wildcats opened with a 48.950 on vault, headlined by Waltz, who competed last and scored a career-best 9.850. Freshman Brittany Furuyama and senior Shelby Hilton each scored a 9.800, both which bested their scores from Monday's season-opener. Senior Alexis Gross tied her career high with a 9.775, while junior Khadijah Hudson recorded a 9.725 for the Wildcats.
After one event, UK was in second place with a 48.950, just behind LSU, who opened with a 49.075 on uneven bars. Arizona State scored a 48.175 on balance beam.
UK took the lead on the second event, thanks to a meet-high 49.150 on uneven bars. Tied for the ninth-highest total in team history, three Wildcats notched career-best totals. Waltz again led Kentucky with a 9.875, while fellow freshman Cori Rechenmacher posted a 9.850. Sophomore Amy Roemmele earned a season-best 9.825 and freshman Katie Carlisle and Hartley both notched a 9.800.
The 49.150 on bars was enough for UK to take the lead in the three-team event with a 98.100. LSU notched a 48.975 on balance beam for a total score of 98.050, while Arizona State scored a 48.825 on floor for a total of 97.000 at the halfway point.
Kentucky scored a 48.825 on balance beam, a season-best score and higher than all but two beam totals from last season. Mitchell led UK with a 9.900, one of three career-high-tying scores for the Wildcats on the event. Sophomore Taylor Puryear's 9.800 and junior Montana Whittle's 9.750 were also career-best-tying marks. Rechenmacher added a 9.725 and Roemmele a 9.650 on UK's third event.
LSU scored a 49.300 on floor to take the lead with a total of 147.350. UK's total climbed to 146.925 for second place, while Arizona State recorded a 48.525 on vault for a 145.525 total after three rotations.
Three Wildcats posted a 9.775 on floor to lead the Wildcats to a 48.675 in the final event. Mitchell, Puryear and junior Tiara Phipps each notched season-best and team-high scores. Hilton also scored a season-best total with a 9.750, while Carlisle recorded a 9.600.
On the final event, along with UK's 48.675 on floor, LSU posted a meet-best 49.250 on vault and Arizona State closed with a 48.875 on uneven bars.
For complete news and updates on the Kentucky Gymnastics program, go to UKathletics.com. Breaking news, behind-the-scenes updates, photos and more can be found on Twitter at @UKGymnastics and Facebook at Facebook.com/UKGymnastics.