By Jacob Most
Jan. 6, 2013 -
BERKELEY, Calif. - The No. 25 University of Kentucky gymnastics team notched the program's best-ever score at a season-opening meet on Sunday inside Haas Pavilion.
The Wildcats totaled 195.125 to finish second in the quad meet behind Cal's 195.425. The Wildcats placed above two opponents ranked higher in the preseason rankings as No. 19 Arizona finished third (194.825) and No. 13 Auburn was fourth (194.625).
Kentucky completed the afternoon with a total score more than 195 at the season's first meet for the first time in school history.
The Wildcats also enjoyed a day of individual triumphs and firsts as Audrey Harrison set a career-high on uneven bars with a 9.9 to finish in a tie for first on the event. Kayla Hartley nailed every pass in a great routine for a career-high 9.9 to win floor exercise.
Harrison's bars title was the first of her career in the event, while she also ran her career tally of individual titles to eight. Hartley now has four career individual titles, all on floor.
Kentucky brought the meet to a great crescendo as the team's best event came last on bars. The best score of the afternoon came from the last bars competitor as Harrison's 9.9 concluded the day for the Wildcats.
Alexis Gross also set a career-high on bars with a 9.875. Kayla Sienkowski and Hartley both also had career-performances as both picked up scores of 9.75. Sienkowski was competing on bars for the first time in her UK career. Shelby Hilton rounded out the action on bars with a 9.725.
"We had a few outstanding performances today, but we also had some uncharacteristic mistakes," UK head coach Tim Garrison said. "I was proud that the team did not let the early struggles affect their performances later in the meet. We will get back in the gym and continue to improve. We are all excited that the season is finally underway."
The Wildcats began the afternoon with a 48.200 on balance beam led by Holly Cunningham's 9.8, which she capped with a nearly flawless dismount. Alexis Gross notched a 9.750, Kayla Sienkowski scored a 9.725, Harrison earned a 9.7 and Kenzie Hedges rounded out the scoring with a 9.225.
The Wildcats improved their scores when they moved to floor with a 48.975. Hartley's 9.9 anchored the rotation while Hedges improved on her beam performance with a 9.825. Shannon Mitchell went 9.775, Tiara Phipps began her UK career in style with a 9.725 and Harrison garnered a 9.75.
Hedges and Cunningham both tied their career best on vault with a 9.85 each. Hilton scored a career-high 9.8, while Jill Chappel went 9.75 on her first career vault. Harrison went 9.7.
Kentucky improved to 29-34 all-time against Auburn and 2-10 against Arizona. Kentucky has now won three straight against the Tigers. The Wildcats fell to 1-1 against Cal in the matchup's history.
The Wildcats will face a familiar opponent in just five days' time when they travel to Auburn for the Southeastern Conference opener on Friday.
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Team Scores: 1. UC - 195.425, 2. UK - 195.125, 3. Auburn - 194.625. 4. Arizona - 194.825.
UK Scores: Vault: 48.950, Bars: 49.000, Beam: 48.200, Floor: 48.975
VAULT: Jill Chappel: 9.750, Kayla Hartley: 9.7, Shelby Hilton: 9.8, Audrey Harrison: 9.7, Kezie Hedges: 9.85, Holly Cunningham: 9.85
BARS: Sara Shipley: 8.5, Kayla Sienkowski: 9.75, Kayla Hartley: 9.75, Shelby Hilton: 9.725, Alexis Gross: 9.875, Audrey Harrison: 9.9
BEAM: Kayla Sienkowski: 9.725, Shannon Mitchell: 9.175, Audrey Harrison: 9.700, Alexis Gross: 9.750, Cunningham 9.800, Kenzie Hedges: 9.225
FLOOR: Hilton: 8.975, Phipps: 9.725, Hedges: 9.825, 9.750, Mitchell: Harrison: 9.750, Hartley: 9.900.