UK Ties Best Finish with Fifth-Place Showing at SEC Championships
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Behind an impressive performance on vault, where the Wildcats posted one of their highest team scores of the season with a 49.0, the University of Kentucky gymnastics team finished in fifth place out of seven teams, tying the best finish in school history at the Southeastern Conference Championships on Saturday in Duluth, Ga.
Kentucky (11-10) posted an overall team score of 194.350 at the event to defeat No. 10 Arkansas, who posted a 194.175, and No. 15 Auburn, who earned a 194.1. No. 1 Florida grabbed its eighth SEC Championship with a team score of 197.150, while No. 3 Alabama finished second with a 196.775. No. 5 Georgia finished third with a 196.575, followed by No. 8 LSU, who grabbed a team score of 196.425.
“The short recap of the meet is that we performed well on two events and struggled on the other two," UK head coach Tim Garrison said. "I do feel that it was an important experience for our team. The format of the SEC Championships is similar to the regional meet coming up in two weeks. And competing against great competition always adds an element of pressure that is hard to simulate in training or in a dual meet. We still have a lot of work to do in our preparation for regionals. These next few training sessions will be critical to how far we go into the postseason."
The fifth-place finish for Kentucky ties the best finish in school history. UK finished tied for fifth out of seven teams in 2002, while its best finish at the event was fourth out of six teams in 1996. The Wildcats had finished seventh at the event the past eight years.
UK ends the season with a Regional Qualifying Score of 195.49, which is the second-highest in school history. Kentucky earned the high RQS after its best three-meet sequence in school history, where it posted a 195.875 or higher in three consecutive meets. UK started its surge with a 195.95 against Illinois before its historic 196.025 on Senior Day against George Washington and Ball State. The Wildcats concluded the impressive month with a 195.875 at Centenary.
Kentucky saved its best team score of the night for last, posting an impressive 49.0 on vault. Sophomore Holly Cunningham led the way on the event with a 9.85, which tied a career high. The high mark for the native of Colorado Springs, Colo., also ties the highest individual vault score of the season for UK. Freshman Kenzie Hedges finished second on the team with a 9.825, followed by freshman Sara Shipley and senior Storey Morris, who grabbed 9.8s. Freshman Alexis Gross went 9.725 on the event, while sophomore Audrey Harrison concluded the scoring with a 9.7.
The Wildcats started the meet on uneven bars, posting a team score of 48.575. Morris led Kentucky on the event with a 9.75, while sophomore Caitlyn Ciokajlo and Shipley were just behind her with a 9.725. Harrison scored a 9.7, while Gross concluded the rotation with a 9.675. Senior Whitney Rose posted an 8.5.
UK posted a solid score on beam with a 48.725. The Wildcats were led on the event by Morris, Harrison and freshman Shannon Mitchell, who each earned 9.775s. Sophomore Kayla Sienkowski continued her consistency on the event with a 9.725, while Gross scored a 9.675. Sophomore Holly Cunningham gathered a 9.0.
Kentucky scored a 48.050 on floor. Harrison led Kentucky with a 9.725, while sophomore Kayla Hartley finished second on the team with a 9.675. Gross was third for UK with a 9.575, while Sienkowski finishing just behind her at 9.55. Freshman Shelby Hilton and Hedges each earned 9.525s.
The Wildcats will now wait for the NCAA to announce on Monday the 36 teams that qualify for the 2012 NCAA Gymnastics Championships. Six qualifying teams will compete in each regional, with the top-two teams from each regional advancing to the NCAA Championship finals in Duluth, Ga., from April 20-22.
Fans can go online to NCAA.com on Monday at 3 p.m. ET to see the 2012 women's gymnastics selection show.
For more information on the Kentucky gymnastics team, follow "UKGymnastics" on Twitter and Facebook, or visit UKathletics.com.
1.) Florida 197.1150 2.) Alabama 196.775 3.) Georgia 196.575 4.) LSU 196.425 5.) Kentucky 194.350 6.) Auburn 194.175 7.) Arkansas 194.1
UK Scores: Vault 49.0, Bars 48.575, Beam 48.725, Floor 48.050
VAULT: Gross 9.725, Shipley 9.8, Morris 9.8, Harrison 9.7, Hedges 9.825, Cunningham 9.85
BARS: Rose 8.5, Gross 9.675, Harrison 9.7, Shipley 9.725, Morris 9.75, Ciokajlo 9.725
BEAM: Sienkowski 9.725, Mitchell 9.775, Harrison 9.775, Gross 9.675, Morris 9.775, Cunningham 9.0
FLOOR: Hilton 9.525, Sienkowski 9.55, Gross 9.575, Hedges 9.525, Harrison 9.725, Hartley 9.675
All-Around: Harrison 38.9, Gross 38.65