No. 24 UK Posts Record-Setting Tri-Meet Win on Senior Night
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- A record-setting balance beam performance led the No. 24 Kentucky gymnastics team to a senior night win with a 196.175 to defeat Pittsburgh and Ball State Friday night in Memorial Coliseum.
The Wildcats (7-4, 3-4 Southeastern Conference) eclipsed the 196.000 mark for the second consecutive week, as Pittsburgh finished second with a 194.450 and Ball State placed third with a 194.200. The 196.175 on senior night marked the 10th-highest team score in program history, but it was balance beam that stole the show again. The 49.375 on the event is the second-highest in team history, a score highlighted by a pair of 9.925's by senior Shannon Mitchell and freshman Sydney Waltz.
"The second straight 196.000-plus in a row, and to get a win always feels good. To do it on senior night is definitely an added bonus," UK head coach Tim Garrison said. "Any time you can get above a 9.900 it's special, and to have two of them in one rotation, and one 9.875, that's a really special day on beam. Our beam team is that good, it's starting to be the norm for us, which is fun to see."
Mitchell and Waltz stole the show Friday, combining for the win on floor exercise with a 9.850, along with their event title on beam. Waltz added a career-best 39.400 all-around score to win her first all-around title of her career after she debuted on the event last week. Mitchell has now claimed a team-high seven event titles in her senior season, while Waltz has five titles in her inaugural collegiate campaign.
Waltz added team-high totals on bars with a 9.850, while junior Tiara Phipps notched a team-best 9.850 on vault.
Kentucky posted meet-high team totals on all four events, despite a slow start to the meet on vault. The Wildcats tied Ball State with a 48.675 on vault, but quickly rebounded with a 49.000 on bars, their second consecutive score of 49.000 or better on the event. UK broke through on beam with its 49.375 before Kentucky closed with a 49.125.
"After vault, they went out and hit their skills," Garrison said. "They went out on bars and recovered and got a 49-even and were right back in it. We went over to beam and absolutely rocked it. That's what we needed, and then we came over and finished respectively on floor. It was a good night heading into the SEC Championships next weekend."
It was the meet's second-half surge that fueled the Wildcats after they found themselves in second place after two rotations.UK was in second after the first rotation, 48.900-675 and again after the second rotation, 97.725-97.675, but that's when Kentucky went to beam and everything changed.
The 49.375 on beam, followed by floor's 49.125 sprung UK to a win by 1.725 points and a second consecutive score of 196.000 or higher.
After the meet, Garrison and the Wildcats honored UK's four seniors. Mitchell, Kayla Hartley, Shelby Hilton and Sara Shipley make up one of the most successful classes in program history. The four seniors have left their mark in the UK record book for years to come. They have made the NCAA Regionals every season and have helped UK set the top five scores in program history and broken the school record on two events.
Postseason competition begins for the Wildcats next weekend at the SEC Championships in Duluth, Ga. Kentucky is slated to compete in the first session at 2 p.m. ET in the Arena at Gwinnett Center vs. No. 10 Georgia, No. 16 Arkansas and Missouri. No. 2 Florida, No. 3 LSU, No. 5 Alabama and No. 7 Auburn are in the evening session.
Kentucky opened with a 48.675 on vault. Led by Phipps' 9.850 in the anchor position, Waltz added a 9.775 and Mitchell recorded a 9.750. Freshman Brittany Furuyama opened with a 9.725, while junior Marissa Beucler notched a 9.575.
UK answered a slow start on vault with a 49.000 on uneven bars. Their fourth score of 49.000 or higher on the event this season, the Wildcats were paced by Waltz's 9.850. Freshman Katie Carlisle added a career-high 9.825 and junior Amy Roemmele, leading off, and Hartley scored a 9.800. Freshman Cori Rechenmacher added a 9.725.
For the second consecutive week, it was a season-high and near-record-setting beam routine for Kentucky. The 49.375 was highlighted by a pair of 9.925's from Mitchell and Waltz. Waltz's was a career-high, while Mitchell's tied her career best, set just a week ago. Junior Montana Whittle tied her career high with a 9.875, while Beucler and Carlisle each scored a 9.825 to open the rotation, with Beucler's tying her career best.
As it has done so many times this season, Kentucky ended with a strong showing on floor. The 49.125 was highlighted by Waltz and Mitchell again pairing for the event title, each with a 9.850. Phipps and sophomore Taylor Puryear added a 9.825 after Carlisle opened with a 9.775.
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