Two Tie for Floor Win at SEC Championships' Opening Session
DULUTH, Ga. - Highlighted by a season best floor score, the No. 25 Kentucky gymnastics team improved its Regional Qualifying Score with a 195.025 at the SEC Championships in Duluth, Ga., on Saturday.
UK's 2015-high 49.300 on floor is tied for the ninth best on the event in program history and was highlighted by a pair of 9.900's. Sophomore Taylor Puryear and freshman Sydney Waltz tied for the event title on floor in the championship's first session, both with season best scores.
The Wildcats competed in the first session and placed fourth. No. 9 Georgia won with a 196.000, while No. 15 Arkansas placed second with a 195.950 and Missouri finished third with a 195.700. The evening session of the SEC Championships featured No. 2 Florida, No. 3 LSU, No. 5 Alabama and No. 8 Auburn. Alabama claimed the SEC title with a 197.525 and all four teams in the second session placed ahead of the teams in the first session to put UK in eighth in the final standings.
"We've come so far as a team and to not perform well at the SEC Championships is very disappointing," UK head coach Tim Garrison said. "After early mistakes, we were able to climb back into contention with solid scores on floor and vault. I felt good about our chances going into bars, but we did not have a solid rotation to finish the meet.
"We did have many outstanding performances by individuals. Taylor Puryear and Sydney Waltz were named All-SEC on floor, and senior Shannon Mitchell had another great day on her three events. Ultimately though, we win and lose as a team and we did not do enough today to get the result we wanted."
Along with Puryear and Waltz, a total of five Wildcats placed in the top four on individual events. Waltz also led UK on vault with a 9.850 to tie for third. On beam, senior Shannon Mitchell was third with a team-high 9.825 and freshman Cori Rechenmacher tied for fourth with a 9.800. On uneven bars, it was junior Amy Roemmele's 9.850 that led Kentucky and was tied for fourth in the first session.
For the first time this season, the Wildcats had two all-around competitors. Junior Marissa Beucler scored a 39.125 in her first career all-around appearance and Waltz competed in her third all-around and recorded a 38.275.
Also for the first time in 2015, Kentucky began the meet on balance beam. UK opened with a 48.275, but quickly responded with the 49.300 on floor. The Wildcats followed with a 48.875 on vault before they closed on uneven bars with a 48.575.
As they have done so many times this season, it was a response to a low score on the previous event that was the shining moment Saturday. Following beam, a 49.300 followed on floor. The season high total was just 0.050 shy of matching Georgia for the top score in the opening session.
The Wildcats were led by a pair of 9.900's to close the rotation by Puryear and Waltz. Puryear's a season high and Waltz's a career best, the 9.900's came after Mitchell scored a 9.850. Kentucky opened the rotation with a 9.775 by freshman Katie Carlisle and two 9.825's, from sophomore Tiara Phipps and Beucler. Beucler's was a career high and came as she made her season debut on floor.
On vault, UK's third event, the Wildcats competed five gymnasts and scored a 48.875. Waltz anchored with a 9.850, which came after a pair of 9.800's from Beucler and Mitchell. Beucler's score was a career high for her second personal best score in as many events. Phipps led off with a 9.725, and freshman Brittany Furuyama competed second and earned a 9.700.
Kentucky closed the championships' first session with a 48.575 on uneven bars. Roemmele led off with a team-high and season-best 9.850, which tied for fourth in the first session. Rechenmacher competed fifth and scored a 9.825, which came after a 9.800 from senior Kayla Hartley. Beucler added a 9.750 and Waltz recorded a 9.350 to round out the scoring for the Wildcats on their final rotation.
The Wildcats opened the meet with a 48.275 on balance beam and counted a fall. Mitchell led UK with a 9.825, and Rechenmacher posted a 9.800. Beucler recorded a 9.750, while junior Montana Whittle added a 9.725 and Waltz a 9.175.
Next up for Kentucky is the NCAA Regionals, where UK is expected to make its 11th consecutive NCAA appearance. The NCAA Selection Show will be held on March 23, when UK will find out its postseason destination.
Regionals are held on April 4 at one of six schools. The 2015 hosts are Auburn, Cal, Iowa State, Ohio State, Oklahoma and West Virginia. The NCAA Finals, in Fort Worth, Texas, will be April 17-19.
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.