Seniors Lead UK to Season-High Score vs. No. 6 Alabama
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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Led by its seniors, the No. 24 Kentucky gymnastics team overcame a slow start to record a season-high score of 195.625 in a 196.700-195.625 loss to No. 6 Alabama on Friday night in Memorial Coliseum.
The Wildcats broke the program record for team score in January, set two weeks ago on Excite Night. Before this season, UK had never scored above a 195.500 this early in the year, which it has now done twice in its first four meets of 2015. UK eclipsed 49.000 on two events, bars and floor, for the first time in one meet this year as six career-high or season-high scores were set.
"Coming back from last week and having to fill four spots in the lineup, the team really stepped up today and challenged themselves," head coach Tim Garrison said. "The team came together and showed a lot of growth out there, which I'm really proud of. We had some little struggles, but they recovered really well. That's a step in right direction, its growth. We need to continue to fine tune and keep moving forward, which I know we'll do next week."
UK opened with a 48.600 on vault, but responded with a meet-high 49.000 on uneven bars. A 48.925 on balance beam was a season-high for the Wildcats, as was their 49.100 on floor exercise. Alabama scored a 49.250 or higher on three events and posted individual high scores on each apparatus.
Seniors Shelby Hilton and Shannon Mitchell both notched two team-high or team-high-tying scores, with Hilton's being her first team-best totals of the year. Hilton led UK on vault with a 9.800, while Mitchell's 9.875 on beam was just 0.025 shy of meet-high totals. Junior Marissa Beucler's 9.850 on bars was a team high, and Hilton, Mitchell, junior Tiara Phipps and sophomore Taylor Puryear each scored a 9.825 on floor.
Friday in front of 2,759 was UK's annual DanceBlue Meet, in support of UK's Pediatric Oncology Clinic and the on-campus organization DanceBlue. The Wildcats wore special gold warm-ups, which will be auctioned off on UKathletics.com to support DanceBlue. More on the DanceBlue Meet and is available here.
Kentucky is back on the road on Feb. 6 at Missouri. Competing in Columbia, Mo., for the second consecutive season, UK will look to improve to a perfect 3-0 against the Tigers since they became the SEC's eighth team in 2013. Action from Mizzou's Hearnes Center is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on SEC Network+.
The Wildcats opened the meet with a 48.600 on vault, led by Hilton's 9.800. Freshman Brittany Furuyama competed fourth after Hilton and scored a 9.775, while Mitchell recorded a 9.725. Beucler and freshman Sydney Waltz each posted a 9.650.
Kentucky trailed by 0.250 points after the first rotation. Alabama opened with a 48.850 on uneven bars.
On bars, UK scored a meet-high 49.000. Beucler anchored with a 9.850, which followed freshman Cori Rechenmacher's 9.800. Waltz also tallied a 9.800, while junior Amy Roemmele and senior Kayla Hartley scored a 9.775.
After two events, the Wildcats trailed 98.150-97.600 after Alabama posted a 49.300 on vault. On the third rotation, UK notched a season-high 48.925 on beam, while the Crimson Tide scored a 49.250 on floor.
UK's highest beam score of the season was fueled by Mitchell's team-high 9.875 and two career-high or season-high-tying scores. Junior Montana Whittle broke her career high with a 9.825, while Roemmele recorded a season-high-tying total with a 9.750. Rechenmacher also tallied a 9.750, and Waltz notched a 9.725 in her career debut on the event.
The Wildcats saved their best for last, with a season-high 49.100 on floor exercise. Four UK gymnasts led UK with a 9.825, three with season-high scores. Hilton and Phipps opened with a 9.825, while Mitchell and Puryear competed fourth and fifth, also posting a 9.825. Hartley closed the night for UK with a 9.800.
Alabama ended the night with a 49.300 on beam for a final score of 196.700.
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.