Gymnastics Shines, Earns First SEC Road Win Since 1999
By Evan Crane
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Kentucky gymnastics team used a solid performance on all four events to gather an overall team score of 195.525, defeating Auburn inside Auburn Arena on Friday night. The victory was the first road win for the Wildcats in a Southeastern Conference dual meet since UK topped Auburn in 1999, and the first SEC season-opening win since 2008.
Kentucky (3-1, 1-0 SEC) has now won four-consecutive meets over the Tigers, including postseason play. UK posted a season-opening win against the Tigers last Sunday in California, while UK also defeated Auburn in a home tri-meet with Pittsburgh and in the SEC Championship meet last season. The four-meet winning streak against Auburn is the longest since UK claimed 11 straight victories over the Tigers from 1995-99. UK is 30-34 all-time against Auburn.
"We made 23 of 24 routines competed today," head coach Tim Garrison said. "We were consistent, but not exceptional. We are leaving Auburn feeling good about the win, but well aware that we are capable of much more."
The 195.525 team score and SEC victory continues the best start in school history for the Wildcats, who have never earned back-to-back 195-plus team scores to start a season. UK posted the ninth-highest score in the nation last weekend when it earned a 195.125 in a quad-meet with California, Auburn and Arizona. The team score was the highest in a season-opening meet in school history for Kentucky. The sensational start bests UK’s previous best start to a season when it posted a then-season opening school record score of 194.850 followed by a 195.525 in 2010.
Junior Audrey Harrison had a great meet, earning a 39.2 to win the all-around competition. Harrison started the night with a 9.775 on uneven bars, followed by a 9.8 on vault and balance beam, and a 9.85 on floor exercise. The all-around win for Harrison was the fifth of her career and first of the season. Overall, Kentucky earned 13 season or career-high scores in the meet.
The Wildcats started the night on uneven bars, posting a team score of 48.9 behind several career bests. Juniors Kayla Hartley and Kayla Sienkowski led the Wildcats by posting career-high numbers of 9.825 and 9.8, respectively. Sophomores Sara Shipley and Shelby Hilton also had career-highs on the event, both earning 9.75s. Harrison posted a 9.775, followed by sophomore Alexis Gross earning a 9.725.
Sophomore Kenzie Hedges paced the Wildcats on vault with a career-high tying 9.85, leading UK to a season-high team score of 48.975 on the event. The strong score from Hedges earned her vault honors, which is the second event title of her career. Junior Holly Cunningham finished second on the team on vault with a 9.825, followed by Harrison’s 9.8. Hilton posted a solid score of 9.775, while Hartley and freshman Jill Chappel earned 9.725s.
UK earned a team score of 48.875 on floor led by Hartley’s 9.85, which tied her for event honors. Harrison’s season-high of 9.825 was second on the team and third overall. Freshman Tiarra Phipps finished third on the team with a 9.775, which was a career-high mark, while Hedges posted a 9.725. Hilton and sophomore Shannon Mitchell each posted a 9.7.
The Wildcats performed well on balance beam, earning a team score of 48.775 to seal the victory. Harrison led the Wildcats with a season-best 9.8, while Mitchell earned a season-high 9.775. Sienkowski also had a season high score with a 9.75, while Gross and Shipley both posted 9.75s. Cunningham concluded the scoring with a 9.050.
Harrison won the all-around title over Auburn’s Caitlin Atkinson (39.150) and Brianna Guy (38.2).
The Wildcats will begin their home portion of the 2013 schedule on Friday, Jan. 18 with the Excite Night at the Kentucky Classic. The event will be an SEC dual-meet between Kentucky and Arkansas, which began the season ranked 12th nationally. The Excite Night festivities are set to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, with the meet getting underway at 7 p.m.
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* denotes season high; ** denotes career high