March 2, 2012
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Kentucky gymnastics team continued where it left off last week, shattering its season-best overall team score with a 195.950 to earn its second-consecutive win over a top-25 opponent in a 195.950-195.750 victory at No. 21 Illinois on Friday inside Huff Hall.
The high team score for Kentucky (6-6, 1-5 Southeastern Conference) is it’s best since posting a 196.05 in 2010 against Kent State. UK has also scored a 195.5 or higher in back-to-back meets for the first time since midway through the 2010 season.
“This team took another step forward today and I couldn’t be more proud,” said UK head coach Tim Garrison, who is in his first season at the helm of the UK program. “Going on the road against a top-25 team and coming out with a win shows that they are beginning to believe in themselves. It’s fun to watch them grow more confident in training and then apply that in competition.”
The Wildcats defeated Illinois on vault and floor exercise, while junior Caitlyn Ciokajlo took home event honors on uneven bars and sophomore Kayla Hartley won the floor title. Overall, Kentucky set or tied 10 season highs and 10 career highs in the meet.
UK has performed well on the road this season, earning 195-plus team scores in three of their last four road meets. Kentucky posted a then-season high 195.05 at Illinois-Chicago on Jan. 28, before matching that performance in a dual meet at LSU on Feb. 3. Two weeks ago, UK had a setback at top-five ranked Georgia, scoring a 193.125. The Wildcats have answered in the two meets since its loss to UGA with 195.525 last week and the impressive 195.95 on Friday.
Coach Garrison’s squad was fantastic on vault, scoring a season-best team score of 49.125. The high mark is the best for the Wildcats since it set the school record with a 49.4 last year in a dual meet at Ohio State. An impressive total of five of the six gymnasts on vault for UK set or tied a career high. Morris and freshman Kenzie Hedges led Kentucky on the event with Morris setting a career-high 9.85 and Hedges tying a career best with the same score. Harrison also tied a career high with a 9.825, while fellow sophomore Holly Cunningham also scored a 9.825. Gross and fellow freshman Shelby Hilton each scored a 9.775, which tied a career best for Gross and set a career high for Hilton.
The win for UK was sealed on balance beam, where it posted a season-best team score of 49.050, which is only the 10th time in school history UK has posted a 49.05 or higher on the event. Four Wildcats posted a 9.8 or higher on beam, including three that posted 9.825s. Sophomore Kayla Sienkowski tied a career high with a 9.825, while Harrison set a career high with the same score. Morris also grabbed a 9.825 on the event, followed by Cunningham, who posted a 9.8. Gross tied a career best with a 9.775, while Mitchell also scored a 9.775.
Kentucky started the night on uneven bars, posting the second-best team score of the season on the event with a mark of 48.85. Ciokajlo led UK on bars with a 9.85, marking the third-consecutive meet that she has posted a 9.85 or higher on bars. Morris and Harrison were also solid, posting 9.775s, while freshman Sara Shipley scored a 9.75. Gross continued her consistency on the event with a 9.7, while senior Whitney Rose grabbed a 9.625.
The Wildcats earned a team score of 48.925 on floor exercise. Hartley led UK and finished tied for first overall on the event with an impressive 9.85, while Harrison followed with a 9.8. Hedges finished third on the team with a 9.775, while Hilton, Sienkowski and Gross each posted 9.75s.
Harrison and Gross finished third and fourth respectively in the all-around competition by posting career-high marks. Harrison grabbed a 39.225, while Gross followed with a 39.0.
Last year, Illinois and Kentucky faced off in a season-opening tri-meet in Memorial Coliseum with UK finishing first with a 194.350. The Fighting Illini were second with a 193.65, while Northern Illinois was third with a 189.075. This was Kentucky’s first-ever meet in Champaign, Ill.
The Wildcats will be back in action again next Sunday when it plays host to the final home meet of the year against George Washington and Ball State. The meet will serve as Senior Night for Kentucky as it honors the four-year accomplishments of Rose and Morris. The meet is scheduled to begin 2 p.m. ET.
For more information on the Kentucky gymnastics team, visit UKathletics.com, or follow “UKGymnastics” on Twitter and Facebook.
TEAM SCORES: 1) Kentucky 195.950, 2) No. 21 Illinois 195.750
UK SCORES: Vault 49.125, Bars 48.85, Beam 49.050, Floor 48.925
VAULT: Gross 9.775, Hilton 9.775, Morris 9.85, Harrison 9.825, Hedges 9.85, Cunningham 9.825
BARS: Rose 9.625, Gross 9.7, Harrison 9.775, Shipley 9.75, Morris 9.775, Ciokajlo 9.85
BEAM: Sienkowski 9.825, Mitchell 9.775, Harrison 9.825, Gross 9.775, Morris 9.825, Cunningham 9.8
FLOOR: Hilton 9.75, Sienkowski 9.75, Gross 9.75, Hedges 9.775, Harrison 9.8, Hartley 9.85
All-Around: Harrison 39.225, Gross 39.000