Senior Gymnasts Hope to Leave Memorial Coliseum with a Bang

March 2, 2011

By Betsey Smith, UK Media Relations Student Assistant -

The Kentucky gymnastics team looks forward to celebrating the accomplishments of four seniors by giving a strong performance in its season finale at Memorial Coliseum on Friday.

Kentucky (4-8, 1-5 Southeastern Conference) has scored impressive marks of 195.575 and 195.000 against SEC foes LSU and Georgia in its last two home meets and is looking for more of the same Friday when it hosts Bowling Green and George Washington in a tri-meet.

UK’s four senior gymnasts, Andrea Mitchell, Jasmine Minion, Phylicia Reshard and Colleen Williams, will be honored after the meet for their dedication to the UK program the past few years. Although emotions will run high, the group of leaders claims this meet will be like any other. UK assistant coach Heather Hite agrees.

“It will be emotional just because of everything they went through throughout their four years here,” Hite said. “It’s hard to see girls leave that you have gotten attached to. We see these girls every single day of their lives and it’s hard to lose that.”

Hite, alongside assistant coach Chuck Dickerson, have guided this year’s young team through the transition of a coaching change. Hite said not only have the seniors helped the young gymnasts with the transition, but they have helped the coaches as well.

“They have stepped up to the plate and said that our goal is to go to nationals,” said Hite, who credits the upperclassmen for making the team feel like a family. “No matter what happens, we all know that we are working towards that one goal. They will try everything just to try to make it work as a family and as a team.”

Inside the gym, all four seniors have made huge contributions to Kentucky’s line-up with Mitchell and Reshard competing in four events, Minion competing in three and Williams two.

Mitchell and Reshard are Kentucky’s top two all-around competitors with both gymnasts notching a career high 39.275 so far this season. Minion has also been solid, scoring several 9.9s, including a 9.925 on floor and vault, while Williams has earned a career high vault this season with a 9.85.

However, the seniors, as well as the rest of the team, will have to work even harder the rest of the season to replace the four routines that junior Whitney Rose held before suffering a knee injury during last Friday’s home meet against LSU.

“Her injury has definitely affected us because she was an all-around gymnast,” said Reshard, who has won two all-around competitions this season. “I feel like it gives us a little more drive and determination and heart. We have to go out there and we have to step it up even more, because the scores of her routines that we are replacing aren’t exactly as high as the scores that she was putting up. So well all have to step up to make up for her scores.”

Reshard is definitely a gymnast the younger team members look up to for guidance, leadership and work ethic. Now a scholarship athlete and all-around event competitor, Reshard has come a long way since her freshman year when she joined the team as a walk-on gymnast from West Chester, Ohio in 2007.

Reshard said confidence and consistency helped lead her to where she is today and that her and her fellow seniors have changed and became better people during their time at Kentucky.

The seniors, alongside the rest of the team, have a determined and intense attitude to make Friday’s meet special. Minion and Williams both talked about how proud they are to be a part of the Big Blue Nation and want to leave Memorial Coliseum for the last time with a bang.

Mitchell says her lasting memory of Kentucky will be heart, desire and determination.

“I will miss the energy I feel from the crowd when I compete in Memorial Coliseum,” said Mitchell, when asked what she will miss most about being a Kentucky gymnast. “When I think of Kentucky, I think of heart. You have to have a lot of heart and fight and desire and determination to accomplish something here. Anyone competing in a sport at Kentucky has a lot to live up to.”