March 22, 2014
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The University of Kentucky gymnastic team scored a 195.075 to finish second in the first session and sixth overall at the 2014 SEC Gymnastics Championship Saturday at the BJCC Arena in Birmingham, Ala.
UK finished behind No. 12 Auburn's 195.550 and ahead of No. 15 Arkansas' 194.900 and Missouri's 194.650 in the first session. No. 4 Alabama won the meet with a 197.875, followed by No. 1 Florida with a 197.700. Among the eight teams, Kentucky finished sixth overall. It is the Wildcats' highest finish since 2012 when they placed fifth out of seven.
"I thought we had a pretty solid day on three events," UK head coach Tim Garrison said. "We ended up where I thought we would if that were to happen. Starting well on beam was critical. They did great, start to finish, all six went up and did well. After some struggles on floor, they found a way to come back on vault, it was a mindset to let go of the last event. They performed well on vault to set us up for bars, the last event. It was a good rotation to finish on, I was pleased to see them handle it so well."
Senior Audrey Harrison, redshirt junior Kayla Hartley and junior Shannon Mitchell earned All-SEC honors. Harrison earned her first career honors thanks to a 39.125 in the all-around, the second-highest total in the first session. Hartley was named All-SEC for the second time in her career after a 9.850 on uneven bars and Mitchell earned her first career award thanks to a 9.875 on vault along with a 9.850 on balance beam.
The Wildcats led the first session with a 49.175 on vault and a 49.050 on bars. UK notched a 48.825 on beam to open the competition, just 0.050 points shy of session-high honors. Kentucky also scored a 48.025 on floor.
Mitchell's 9.875 on vault and 9.850 on beam were both team-bests. Harrison and freshman Taylor Puryear recorded a 9.750 on floor to share team-high honors. Harrison's 39.125 all-around score and Hartley's 9.850 on bars also led the Wildcats.
For the first time this season, the Wildcats started on beam. They were looking for a big start on their weakest event, and that's exactly what they got. A 48.825, their second-highest total of the year on the apparatus, put UK in first place after the first rotation.
Along with Mitchell's 9.850, Harrison and fellow senior Kayla Sienkowski each posted a 9.775. Freshman Taylor Puryear registered a career-high 9.725 and junior Sara Shipley added a 9.700 in her first appearance of the season.
UK then moved to floor, where it scored a 48.025. Harrison and Puryear led the Wildcats with a 9.750, while Hartley recorded a 9.700. Juniors Shelby Hilton and Kenzie Hedges scored a 9.450 and a 9.375, respectively.
Kentucky found itself in fourth place after two events, but a session-high 49.175 on vault quickly turned things in UK's favor. The score, UK's third-highest of the year on the event, put the Wildcats in a tie for second after three events.
UK's vault routine was led by Mitchell's 9.875, followed closely by a 9.850 from both Hartley and senior Holly Cunningham. Harrison and Hedges each added a 9.800.
After three events, Auburn was in first, but just 0.050 points separated UK, Mizzou and Arkansas for second place. Tied for second with MU, the Wildcats finished the meet with a 49.050 on bars to close the gap with Auburn and ensure Mizzou and Arkansas would not catch them.
The 49.050 was UK's second-highest of the season on the apparatus, led by Hartley's 9.850. Sophomore Amy Roemelle and Sienkowski both scored a 9.825 and Harrison scored a 9.800. Sophomore Montana Whittle anchored the day for the Wildcats with a 9.750.
The Wildcats are expected to make their 10th consecutive NCAA Regionals appearance. The NCAA Selection Show will be held on March 24, when UK will find out its postseason destination.
Regionals are held on April 5 at one of six schools. The 2014 hosts are Arkansas, Georgia, LSU, Minnesota, Penn State and Washington. The NCAA Finals, in Birmingham, Ala., will be from April 18-20.
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