No. 17 Gymnastics Faces Two Top-Six Teams in Knoxville
Jan. 17, 2014
OZONE COLLEGIATE GYMNASTICS CLASSIC
When: Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Knoxville Convention Center Arena | Knoxville, Tenn.
Live Results : MeetAuthority.com
Meet Info: Meet Notes | OzoneInvitational.com
Additional Info: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
PRIMER: OZONE COLLEGIATE GYMNASTICS CLASSIC
The No. 17 University of Kentucky gymnastics team travels to Knoxville, Tenn., for the Ozone Collegiate Gymnastics Classic against a pair of top-six opponents Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. The Wildcats will face off against No. 3 Alabama and No. 6 Nebraska.
Live results from Knoxville can be found on MeetAuthority.com. Updates can also be found on Twitter at @UKgymnastics. Saturday's contest will be broadcast by Comcast Sports South on Jan. 24 at 9 p.m. ET. Melissa Lee and Ashley Miles will have the call from the Knoxville Convention Center.
UK ranks 17th nationally after one week of competition and travels to Tennessee for just the third time in program history. The 2009 Southeastern Conference Championships were held in Nashville, while UK competed at Memphis State in 1981. This will mark Kentucky's first visit to Knoxville.
The Ozone Classic is a homecoming for senior Audrey Harrison, a Knoxville native. The SEC's leader in all-around titles in conference meets last season, Harrison was a level 10 gymnast at the Premier Athletic Club before coming to UK.
Kentucky, Alabama and Nebraska are all coming off opening-weekend victories at home last weekend. UK defeated No. 15 Penn State, West Virginia and Ball State on Excite Night, while the Crimson Tide downed Missouri. The Cornhuskers opened with a win over Northern Illinois.
SCOUTING NO. 3 ALABAMA
No. 3 Alabama is coming off an opening-weekend win over Missouri on Jan. 10. The Crimson Tide tallied the program's highest score to open the season in program history with a 197.150. UA won all four events as a team and recorded at least the top three individual scores on each event. While Mizzou did not have an all-arounder compete, all three Bama gymnasts to compete in the all-around scored a 39.325 or higher, led by senior Kim Jacob's 39.525.
Along with a No. 3 overall ranking, Alabama is ranked in the top seven on all four events, with a nation-best 49.475 on uneven bars. The Tide are fifth on vault, tied for sixth on balance beam and seventh on floor. Individually, Jacob's 39.525 all-around score ranks second, while her 9.925 on bars is tied for third alongside teammate Amanda Jetter. Diandra Milliner is second on floor with a 9.950. In total, the Crimson Tide are ranked 11 times in the top 25 on four individual events and the all-around.
SCOUTING NO. 6 NEBRASKA
Nebraska, tied for sixth in the latest national rankings, is coming off a 196.625-192.525 win over Northern Illinois, Saturday in Lincoln, Neb. The Huskers won all four events as a team and claimed individual titles on each event along with the top three all-around scores. Senior Emily Wong registered a 39.425 for the all-around win to go along with two individual event titles.
Tied for sixth with a 196.625 team score, the Huskers are sixth nationally on vault and uneven bars, ninth on balance beam and 11th on floor. NU has three gymnasts ranked in the top 16 in the all-around and five on individual events. Jessie DeZiel, who is tied for ninth in the all-around with a 39.325, is tied for second on floor with a 9.950, and tied for third on vault with a 9.950 and bars with a 9.925.
UP NEXT: AT MISSOURI (JAN. 24, 7:30 P.M. ET)
The Wildcats continue a three-week roadtrip at Missouri on Jan. 24 at 7:30 p.m., ET. Kentucky is 1-0 in Southeastern Conference action against Mizzou, with a 194.250-194.125 home win last season in the Tigers' first season in the SEC. The last time the Wildcats traveled to Columbia, Mo. was in 2004.
LAST TIME OUT: UK BEATS THREE TO WIN OPENER
In front of a lively crowd of nearly 6,000 fans, Kentucky defeated three teams and won the annual Excite Night at the Kentucky Classic event to open the 2014 season in Memorial Coliseum on Jan. 10.
The Wildcats scored a 195.000, ahead of No. 15 Penn State's 193.975. West Virginia placed third with a 193.700, while Ball State recorded a 190.875. UK senior Audrey Harrison won the all-around title with a 39.075 along with a win on beam with a 9.850. She joined redshirt junior Kayla Hartley with a meet-best 9.825 on floor.
The Wildcats claimed the top scores on vault with a 48.600, beam with a 48.675 and floor with a 48.950. UK's uneven bars score of 48.775 was second to West Virginia's.
CATS RANKED 17TH NATIONALLY
After the first weekend of competition, the Wildcats are ranked 17th as a team and have earned three top-21 event rankings. With a 195.000 in its first meet, UK joins 16 other teams with an average of 195.000 or higher, including five additional SEC squads. Within the Central Region, UK is third, behind LSU and Alabama.
On individual events, Kentucky is tied for 14th on floor with a 48.950, fifth-best in the SEC. On beam, UK is 16th with a 48.675, while it is tied for 21st on uneven bars with a 48.775. On vault, the Wildcats are tied for 35th with a 48.600.
In the individual rankings, senior Audrey Harrison is tied for 18th on balance beam with a 9.850. She also sits just outside the top 25 in the all-around, with a 39.075, to rank 28th nationally.
RECORD CROWD SEES EXCITE NIGHT WIN
As Kentucky beat three teams to win its season-opener on Jan. 10, it did so in front of one of the largest crowds in UK gymnastics history. A crowd of 5,839 witnessed the Excite Night victory, which marked the largest since 2007, when 6,875 where in attendance. It also marked the third-largest UK home crowd since at least 1997.
2014 SCHEDULE NOTHING TO LAUGH AT
With 10 top-25 teams on Kentucky's 2014 slate, including four of the top five, ranked in the preseason coaches poll, the Wildcats face one of the most grueling schedules in the nation. Among top-25 teams, CollegeGymFans.com has tabbed UK's schedule as the toughest in the country, while RoadtoNationals.com the Blue and White's schedule as the second-best strength of schedule among all NCAA teams. Seven of the SEC's eight teams enter the season ranked nationally, with the eighth, Missouri, receiving votes.
HIGHEST PRESEASON RANKING
The Wildcats earned their highest preseason ranking in team history at 21st. In the GymInfo Preseason Coaches Poll, UK is one of seven SEC teams ranked nationally, led by top-ranked and defending national champion Florida and No. 2 Alabama. In 2012, head coach Tim Garrison's first season, the Wildcats were ranked 23rd while they were voted 25th last season.
UK returns 13 letterwinners from the record-setting 2013 team and lost just two. Among the returners are seniors Holly Cunningham, Audrey Harrison and Kayla Sienkowski along with redshirt junior Kayla Hartley. Harrison returns after winning a league-leading six all-around titles in SEC competition last year. The Wildcats welcome three freshmen, Alyssa Bertoni, Kirsten Canini and Taylor Puryear to the team in 2014.
SEC'S ALL-AROUND LEADER IS BACK
Senior Audrey Harrison is coming off a record-setting 2013 season. One of the most consistent competitors in the nation last season, the Knoxville, Tenn., native tallied a league-leading six all-around titles in SEC meets and totaled seven in all competitions. Harrison scored a career-high score of 39.425 at Ball State and also won all-around titles against then-No. 13 Auburn, No. 9 Arkansas, No. 6 LSU, No. 6 Georgia and No. 1 Florida.
A LOOK BACK AT A RECORD-SETTING 2013
Kentucky is coming off a record-setting 2013 campaign that saw numerous school records fall. UK earned a ninth-consecutive NCAA Regional bid with a school-record regional qualifying score of 196.06 after breaking the team best score twice. A 196.775 in the regular season finale at Penn State bested the previous high score, set earlier in the season at Ball State.
The Wildcats notched three wins against SEC opponents, the most in program history and earned a 3-3-1 league mark, also a school best. All three wins were against teams ranked in the top 15, with two over top-nine foes. In postseason play, UK tallied the program's highest-ever NCAA Regional team score of 195.575 and finished fourth at the regional.
WINNING BIG AT THE CATSPY AWARDS
The Kentucky gymnastics team wrapped up a historic 2013 season by claiming the prestigious "Team of the Year Award" at the annual CATSPY Awards along with two individual awards.
Tim Garrison was named Coach of the Year alongside baseball coach Gary Henderson and rifle coach Harry Mullins, while sophomore Shannon Mitchell picked up the Scratch Award, given to the top non-scholarship student-athlete.
The 11th-annual CATSPYs recognized UK's athletic and academic performance during the year. A spin-off of the popular ESPY Awards held each year by ESPN, the CATSPYS feature 24 individual and team honors, chosen from UK's 22 varsity sports.
Across all sports the Southeastern Conference is one of the toughest in the country, and gymnastics is certainly no exception. With seven of the SEC's eight teams ranked in the top 25, including four in the top five, the league is primed for another season of elite competition.
SEC schools have won eight of the last nine NCAA Championships, including the last three, but the league's dominance is nothing new. Seventeen national titles have been won by SEC schools since the inaugural NCAA Championship in 1982.
Florida captured the program's first NCAA Championship last season to join Alabama and Georgia. Four SEC teams advanced to the Super Six at last season's NCAA Championships.
The SEC has placed at least two teams among the top six in 30 of the possible 32 NCAA Championship events. A record five SEC teams advanced to the NCAA Super Six team final in 2009. The SEC also leads all conferences in NCAA individual titles (92).