By Jacob Most
April 6, 2013 -
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Kentucky gymnastics team posted the program’s highest-ever NCAA Regional team score with a 195.575 on Saturday inside WVU Coliseum.
Kentucky finished in fourth-place overall just .45 outside second position.
“The team competed hard tonight,” head coach Tim Garrison said. “I saw the kind of fight that I have come to expect from this group, and I couldn’t be more proud of the effort.”
Michigan won the meet with a 196.725 and Illinois claimed the second nationals berth with a 196.025. Nebraska finished third with a 195.875. West Virginia (194.475) and North Carolina (194.350) placed fifth and sixth respectively.
The top two team finishers at each of the six regional sites qualified for the NCAA National Championship, which will be held in Los Angeles. Calif., April 19-21.
“The meet wasn’t decided until the last few routines of the last event," Garrison said. "In the end it did not go our way. We are obviously disappointed that our season has come to a premature end, but we are also encouraged by the progress we have made.
"The goal now is to build on that progress.”
Audrey Harrison finished in a tie for third in the individual all-around race with a score of 39.2, but tied for the highest AA score among competitors not on a team advancing to regionals.
Harrison missed out on a trip to nationals by virtue of NCAA tiebreaking procedure, despite tying Nebraska’s Jessie Deziel. The Cornhusker all-around competitor had a superior highest single event score as she notched 9.95 on vault, while Harrison’s top-event score was a 9.825 on balance beam.
The top two all-around competitors (who were not on an advancing team) from each regional received an automatic berth to the national championships.
Alexis Gross earned a career-high all-around score 39.05, in her first meet competing all four events this season.
The Wildcats finished with the third-highest event team scores on each apparatus, except for vault, in which UK placed fourth.
Freshman Tiara Phipps started the meet for Kentucky with a great 9.8 floor exercise routine, which tied her career-high. Harrison also executed a solid routine to garner a 9.8, while Gross scored a 9.775. Kayla Hartley and Shannon Mitchell both scored a 9.75, and it all amounted to a 48.875 floor score
Holly Cunningham led UK on vault as she stuck her landing for a 9.85. Harrison’s 9.8 vault put the all-rounder on her way to the quality AA score. Sara Shipley began the rotation with a 9.775, while Shelby Hilton and Jill Chappel both scored 9.75 to round out UK’s 48.925 vault score.
UK drew a bye before moving to uneven bars, and after three rotations with all six squads having completed two rotations Michigan led the team standings having totaled 98.575.
Illinois scored 97.925 after three, and UK was third with 97.8. Nebraska sat in fourth with 97.4. UNC(97.075) and WVU (96.925) were in fifth and sixth respectively.
Alexis Gross stuck her dismount to score a 9.825, which paced Kentucky to a 48.8 bars score. Harrison kept her impressive evening going with a 9.775, and Hilton rounded out a bounce-back meet with a 9.75. Shipley and Kayla Sienkowski each earned a 9.725.
Kentucky brought a 146.575 into balance beam during the fifth rotation.
With the pressure on, Sienkowski’s 9.825 started the team’s final act nicely. Mitchell followed Sienkowski with a 9.75. Harrison and Gross nailed their routines with scores 9.825 and 9.8 respectively. Cunningham anchored with a 9.775.
With Kentucky on a bye for the sixth rotation, Michigan needed a 47.95 on floor to surpass UK. Illinois would need a 48.725 on beam and Nebraska would require a 49.35 vault score.
Michigan totaled 49.3, Illinois recorded a 49.175 and Nebraska went 49.65.
Kentucky concludes 2013 having enjoyed one of the best seasons in school history.
UK has set the school record team score twice this season, en route to posting the three best all-time UK single-meet team scores.
Hartley and Gross became Kentucky’s first All-SEC selections since 2005. Harrison will finish the season with the second most all-around titles in Division I.
The Wildcats qualified for regionals with a program record regional qualifying score of 196.06.
Competing in the nation’s top gymnastics conference, Kentucky finished the Southeastern Conference schedule with three wins, the most in school history, highlighted by a home-opening victory over then-No. 9 Arkansas. UK also beat then-No. 13 Auburn twice, and tied then-No. 6 Georgia at home.
Kentucky scored more than 196 four-consecutive weeks leading up to the SEC Championship. UK had never topped a 196 team score two meets in a row before this season.
1) MICH 196.725
2) IL 196.025
3) NEB 195.875
4) UK 195.575
5) WVU 194.475
6) UNC 194.350
UK: VAULT: 48.925, BARS: 48.800, BEAM: 48.975, FLOOR: 48.875