Kentucky Gymnastics Rallies to Upset No. 14 Arkansas
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Sparked by a season high on the vault, and following with solid performances in the remaining events, the No. 24-ranked Kentucky gymnastics team came from behind on the final rotation to upset No. 14 Arkansas, 195.750 to 194.825, Friday night in Memorial Coliseum. The result marks the second-highest score by the Wildcats this season.
The win improved Kentucky to 4-4 overall, 2-3 in the Southeastern Conference, while Arkansas is now 3-5 overall, 1-4 in league action. The victory came on Jenny Hansen Night, as UK Athletics officially retired the jersey of one of the greatest gymnasts in NCAA history.
"Getting a win in the SEC is always something special because they're hard to come by," Coach Tim Garrison said. "More than that, I thought our kids fought really hard tonight."
Kentucky began quickly on the vault, ascending to a season-high score of 49.175. Freshman Sydney Waltz led the way with a career-best 9.9 while Kayla Hartley (9.85) and Marissa Beucler (9.775) tied their career highs. Shelby Hilton's 9.85 was a season best. With Shannon Mitchell adding a 9.8, UK led Arkansas after the first rotation.
"I thought they got off to a great start on the vault," Garrison said. "We've worked hard on our landings, excited to do that tonight."
After UK had the official jersey retirement ceremony for Hansen midway through the evening, the meet resumed with the Wildcats scoring a 48.95 atop the balance beam. Amy Roemmele opened with a 9.65, followed by Carlisle (9.775) and Waltz (9.75). The Cats closed strong on the beam as Rechenmacher set a career-high 9.875 and Mitchell won the event and tied her all-time best with a 9.9.
The 48.95 team tally is the second best of the season in that discipline and left Kentucky just one-tenth of a point behind going into the final rotation. Even though the Cats still trailed, the team's effort was an indication of things to come.
"After (UK made) a mistake on beam, the next few athletes went up and competed really, really well and that showed the resilience of our team and the fight," Garrison said.
With the meet hanging in the balance, Kentucky went to the floor exercise while the Razorbacks were on the balance beam. UK notched a 48.85, with sophomore Taylor Puryear tying for the event title with a 9.85, also tying her season high. Carlisle posed a career best with 9.8 and Mitchell also hit a 9.8. Meanwhile, the visitors tallied 47.825 on the beam and the Wildcats had rallied to claim the victory.
"We finished on the floor and I was pleased with it," Garrison said. "We made a couple of mistakes in the beginning and the end, but were really strong in the middle.
"We did a lot of great things (in the meet). (There is a) Lot to build on, lot to go back in the gym and harp on, which is always good, but we have some things to work toward."
In addition to the Kentucky team triumph, the jersey retirement ceremony was another highlight of the night. Hansen, one of the greatest gymnasts in NCAA history, competed for UK from 1993-96 and won an NCAA-record eight individual titles, including three all-around crowns. She was named the top gymnast for the first 25 years of NCAA championships.
Hansen, who continues to hold every record in UK history, was the 1995 Southeastern Conference Female Athlete of the Year and was the Honda Award winner for best female athlete in America. Her nine career titles at the SEC Championships set a league record. She also will be recognized during the men's basketball game Saturday night.
"I think she's an inspiration to them (current UK gymnasts)," Garrison said. "She's such a motivating person. If you're around her for a few minutes you get that feeling. She's a great person and we're glad to have her around. The fact that Jenny and the other (UK gymnastics) alumni were here made it a special night for us and to get the win on top of that - absolutely, we'll take it."
The Wildcats return to action Friday, Feb. 27 at No. 2 Florida for the final regular-season road meet. UK will conclude regular season action at home on March 6 and March 13.
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.