Gymnastics Falls at Two-Time Defending National Champions

By Evan Crane

Jan. 25, 2013 -

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The 15th-ranked University of Kentucky gymnastics team could not continue its blitzing start to the 2013 season, falling 196.575-194.8 to the two-time defending national champion No. 5 Alabama Crimson Tide on Friday inside Coleman Coliseum.

The loss was Kentucky’s first in a Southeastern Conference dual meet this season after getting off to a school-record 2-0 start in conference play with wins over Auburn and Arkansas each of the last two weeks. Kentucky (4-2, 2-1 SEC) set or tied four career highs in the meet, including three on balance beam alone.

UK head coach Tim Garrison and Co. entered the meet against No. 5 Alabama in the midst of the best start in school history. UK started the season with a second-place finish in California, defeating Auburn and Arizona, before winning its first SEC road meet since 1999 two weeks ago at Auburn. Last weekend, Kentucky took down No. 9 Arkansas marking the first back-to-back SEC dual meet wins in school history.

Kentucky’s best team score of the night came on beam when it scored a 48.975. Three Wildcats earned career-high or career-high tying marks on the event, including sophomore Shannon Mitchell who led UK with a 9.85. Juniors Kayla Sienkowski and Alexis Gross each tied a career high with a 9.825, while freshman Marissa Beucler grabbed a 9.75 and junior Alexis Gross a 9.725. Junior Holly Cunningham concluded the rotation with a 9.35.

The Wildcats did well on floor exercise with a team score of 48.875. Junior Kayla Hartley led Kentucky on the event with a strong score of 9.825, while sophomores Kenzie Hedges and Mitchell posted 9.8s. Harrison grabbed a 9.775, while freshman Tiarra Phipps scored a 9.675. Sophomore Shelby Hilton scored a 9.05.

UK scored a 48.65 on vault led by Hedges, who finished with a 9.825, which is just off her career high. Cunningham posted a 9.775 on the event, followed by Harrison, who scored a 9.725. Hilton grabbed a 9.7, while freshman Jill Chappel grabbed a 9.65. Hartley grabbed a 9.5 to conclude the UK scoring on the event.

Kentucky started the meet on bars, getting a career-high tying 9.825 from Hartley. Gross had a great routine for UK, scoring a 9.85, while Hilton earned a 9.75. Sophomore Sara Shipley posted a 9.625, while two Wildcats had mishaps with Harrison scoring a 9.25 and Sienkowski a 9.075.

Fans wishing to watch the meet on television can tune into Fox Sports South on Feb. 2 to see the meet. Kentucky’s Jan. 18 win over Arkansas will air on the same network Saturday.

Kentucky will return to action next Friday night when it plays host to No. 7 LSU, marking the third consecutive meet for UK against a top-15 squad. The meet against the Tigers is set to begin at 7 p.m. ET inside Memorial Coliseum. For ticket information, contact the UK Ticket Office at (859) 257-1818.

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Final Scores

1.) Alabama 196.575; 2.) Kentucky 194.8

UK Scores: VAULT 48.65, BARS 48.3, BEAM 48.975, FLOOR 48.875

Vault: Chappel 9.65, Hartley 9.5, Hilton 9.7, Harrison 9.725, Hedges 9.825, Cunningham 9.775

Bars: Shipley 9.625, Sienkowski 9.075, Hartley 9.825**, Hilton 9.75, Gross 9.85, Harrison 9.25

Beam: Sienkowski 9.825**, Mitchell 9.85**, Beucler 9.75, Harrison 9.825**, Gross 9.725, Cunningham 9.35

Floor: Hilton 9.05, Phipps 9.675, Hedges 9.8, Mitchell 9.8, Harrison 9.775, Hartley 9.825

All-Around: Harrison 38.55

* denotes season high; ** denotes career high