UK Faces Two Top-Three Teams at Metroplex Challenge
Feb. 14, 2014
METROPLEX CHALLENGE: UK VS. NO. 2 OKLAHOMA, NO. 3 LSU & NO. 17 ARIZONA
When: Saturday, February 15, 2014 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Fort Worth Convention Center Arena | Fort Worth, Texas
Live Video : Gymnastike.org | Live Results : MetroplexChallenge.com
Meet Info: Meet Notes
Additional Info: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook
FORT WORTH, Texas. – The University of Kentucky gymnastics team returns to the road Saturday to face two top-three teams at the Metroplex Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas. In their first visit to the Lone Star State since 2008, the Wildcats will face No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 3 LSU and No. 17 Arizona at 8 p.m. ET inside the Fort Worth Convention Center Arena.
With this weekend’s meet, the Wildcats (4-4, 1-3 SEC) will have competed against six of the nation’s top seven teams after UK posted a season-best 195.450 in a loss to top-ranked Florida at home on Feb. 7. Kentucky is ranked 33rd in the latest GymInfo rankings after five weeks of competition.
LSU (5-1, 3-1 SEC) and OU (3-2, 1-0 Big 12) met last weekend in Norman, Okla., where the Tigers prevailed for a 197.650-197.325 win. Arizona (303, 1-2 Pac 12) is coming off a 197.825-194.425 road defeat at fourth-ranked Utah on Feb. 7. The Sooners are second nationally for the second consecutive week after spending three weeks atop the polls, while the Tigers sit in third for the third week in a row. The Pac 12-Wildcats are 17th after they dropped from 13th last week.
A live video stream of Saturday’s competition will be available on Gymnastike.org. With a live stream of each event, Gymnastike will give fans the opportunity to select what they watch, or to watch two events simultaneously. Live results from the Metroplex Challenge can be found on MetroplexChallenge.com, while UK updates, news and notes from the Fort Worth Convention Center Arena will be available on Twitter at @UKgymnastics.
SUCCESS DEEP IN THE HEART OF TEXAS
Two of Kentucky’s seven best scores in program history have occurred in Texas, and before it was broken twice last season, the Lone Star State was the site of UK’s highest team score. A 196.375 at Texas Women’s University stood as the top score in Wildcat history for 11 years before it was topped with a 196.500 last year at Ball State. The 2013 Wildcats broke the new mark again last season along with tying the 2002 score. Also at TWU, a 196.200 is the seventh-best all-time score.
UK’s last visit to Texas was in 2008, when the Wildcats won a four-team meet with a 195.200 at Texas Women’s University.
Saturday’s meet is also a homecoming for four Wildcats. Junior Kenzie Hedges, sophomore Tiara Phipps, head coach Tim Garrison and assistant coach Chuck Dickerson all hail from Texas. Hedges, a Rowlett native, competed for United Elite, while Phipps, from San Antonio, was a gymnast for Aerial Athletics and National Elite Gymnastics. Garrison is from Conroe, and Dickerson hails from Tyler.
WILDCAT TO WATCH: SENIOR Audrey Harrison
The reigning Southeastern Conference leader in all-around titles in league competition, senior Audrey Harrison leads the team with six event titles in 2014 for a total of 21 in her career. The Knoxville, Tenn., native leads the Wildcats with team-best scores on beam, floor and all-around and is second on bars. Her season average on beam, floor and all-around are also team-highs to go along with competing in the all-around in each of UK’s five meets.
SCOUTING NO. 2 OKLAHOMA
After a runner-up finish in 2013, second-ranked Oklahoma has a 197.300 average and has notched four scores of 197.225 or higher. OU is 3-2 in 2014 and 1-0 in the three-team Big 12 and has lost back-to-back meets, to No. 2 Florida and No. 3 LSU. The Sooners’ season-best score of 197.7000 came in their season-opening win over then-No. 8 Georgia.
Oklahoma is ranked third nationally on vault, uneven bars and balance beam and fourth on floor. No other team in the country is ranked within the top four on every event. OU is averaging a 49.185 or higher on all four events. Sooner gymnasts are ranked in the top 25 on individual events a total of 11 times, including three appearances by junior Erica Brewer and two from sophomore Haley Scaman. Brewer is eighth in the all-around with a 39.438 average for OU’s lone all-around ranking to go along with a top-19 rank on uneven bars and balance beam. Scaman is seventh on vault and 15th on floor.
SCOUTING NO. 3 LSU
LSU is third nationally thanks to a 197.296 average and a 197.650 high, set last weekend in a win at Oklahoma. The Tigers are 5-1 and 3-1 in SEC competition, with their lone loss at then-No. 9 Georgia in the second meet of the season. LSU has beaten No. 7 Alabama along with second-ranked OU and has scored a 197.175 in five of its six meets.
The Tigers are ranked second nationally on vault, balance beam and floor and sixth on uneven bars. LSU is averaging a 49.200 or higher on each apparatus. Individually, the Tigers appear in the top 25 13 times, led by junior Rheagan Courville, who is sixth in the all-around with a 39.462 average along with top-16 rankings on vault, floor and beam. Junior Jessie Jordan is seventh in the all-around with a 39.450, second on beam with a 9.900 average and 24th on vault.
The Wildcats and Tigers will meet again on March 14 in Baton Rouge, La., With the dual meet in the regular season finale serving as UK’s conference matchup with LSU, Saturday’s Metroplex Challenge will be a nonconference meet and not count in the SEC standings.
SCOUTING NO. 17 ARIZONA
Ranked 17th nationally with a 195.690 average, Arizona is 3-3 and 1-2 in the Pac 12. The Wildcats own a win over Washington and are coming off a loss at No. 4 Utah. Arizona’s season-best 196.925 came in a loss to then-No. 1 Oklahoma.
Arizona is ranked 10th on floor, 14th on uneven bars and 15th on vault, along with 29th on beam. The Wildcats own a 49.205 average on floor and a 49.060 on vault. Arizona has three gymnasts in the top 25 in the individual event rankings. Junior Allison Flores is 13th in the all-around with a 39.350 average, while senior Jordan Williams is 23rd with a 39.225. Junior Kristin Klaranbach rounds out the Wildcats’ top-25 appearances with a 9.875 average on floor, tied for 19th.
UP NEXT: AT NO. 11 ARKANSAS, NO. 7 NEBRASKA
For the only time this season, the Wildcats will compete twice in one weekend, when they travel to No. 11 Arkansas on Feb. 21 and to No. 7 Nebraska on Feb. 23. The Wildcats and Razorbacks will compete at 8 p.m. ET, while the Masters Classic in Lincoln, Neb., which also features Bridgeport and Wisconsin-Stout, commences at 3 p.m. ET two days later.
LAST TIME OUT: VS. NO. 1 FLORIDA
In its return home after three consecutive road meets, Kentucky scored a season-best 195.450 against No. 1 Florida on Feb. 7 on DanceBlue Night. UF recorded a 197.175 to win and keep its perfect record intact.
The Wildcats tallied a season-high score by 0.300 points against the defending national champion-Gators thanks to a 2014-best vault score and six individual season-highs. For the first time this year, UK scored a 49.000 or higher on two events, with a 49.025 on floor and a 49.000 on vault.
Audrey Harrison led UK with a 39.225 in the all-around, a season-best. Harrison also led the Wildcats with a 9.825 on beam, a 9.800 on bars and tied Kayla Hartley with a 9.825 on floor. Holly Cunningham notched a team-best 9.850 on vault.
The meet was DanceBlue Night, to raise awareness and money to benefit children with cancer being treated at UK’s Pediatric Oncology Hematology Clinic. UK wore gold warm-up tops, which are being auctioned off on UKathletics.com to benefit DanceBlue. More information about DanceBlue can be found at DanceBlue.org.
CATS RANKED 18TH ON FLOOR
Through five weeks of competition, the Wildcats are ranked 18th nationally on floor with a 48.995 average. Five of UK’s eight best team scores, including the top three, have come on floor, with three scores of 49.000 or higher.
Kentucky recorded a 49.125 at Missouri, followed by a 49.000 at Georgia and a 49.025 against Florida. In all three meets, it was a consistent effort from the Wildcats that resulted in the high totals. At Mizzou, all six UK gymnasts scored a 9.700 or higher, while all five Wildcats to score at UGA and against Florida each posted at least a 9.775.
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 were in attendance. It also marked the third-largest UK home crowd since at least 1997.
CATS BEAT 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.
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 ranks 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.