LEXINGTON, Ky. - Under first-year head coach Tim Garrison, the University of Kentucky gymnastics team is set to begin its 2012 season by hosting the Excite Night at the Kentucky Classic event Saturday beginning at 5:30 p.m. ET inside Memorial Coliseum. A pre-meet show is set to kick off the event, while a four-team meet featuring the Wildcats, Oklahoma, Bowling Green State and Wisconsin-Oshkosh will begin at approximately 6 p.m. Doors to Memorial Coliseum will open at 4:30 p.m.
"It's hard to believe the season is already here, but I know we are excited and ready to get things going," said Garrison, who came to Kentucky after an impressive stint as an assistant coach at Nebraska. "The team has been working hard over the past few months and this is the time of year where their hard work starts to pay off. We continue to preach to them that this season is a marathon, not a sprint. We are a young team that is only going to get better as the season goes on, and if we continue to do the little things and focus in on the details then good things will happen for us. Hopefully, we can start the season out on a good note in front of our home fans."
Kentucky enters the season ranked No. 23 in the GymInfo Preseason Coaches' Poll. The ranking is tied for the second-highest preseason ranking in school history and the highest since Kentucky was ranked tied for 22nd in 2007. According to records kept since 1998, Kentucky has had a school-high preseason ranking of 22nd four times. This is the second time UK has been ranked 23rd, with the only other time coming in 2006. Kentucky ended the 2011 season ranked 25th in the nation.
The Wildcats will be led this season by senior co-captains Storey Morris and Whitney Rose, who have won a combined 21 individual event titles during their careers at Kentucky. Junior Caitlyn Ciokajlo, who won three event titles on uneven bars last season, also returns, along with fellow junior Caitlin Satkowiak.
UK returns several freshmen from last year's squad who gained valuable experience as current sophomores Holly Cunningham, Audrey Harrison, Paige Krall and Kayla Sienkowski all made the UK lineup at some point during the season. Fellow sophomore Kayla Hartley, who missed the 2011 season, returns, along with eight newcomers in sophomore Liz Ames, and freshmen Angie Goodwyn, Alexis Gross, Kenzie Hedges, Shelby Hilton, Shannon Mitchell, Sara Shipley and Jessie Staples.
Garrison and Co. will face a tough test in the opening meet of the year as they host preseason top-five ranked Oklahoma, Bowling Green State and Wisconsin-Oshkosh. The Sooners return an impressive 18 of 24 routines from last year's squad that finished in the top three at the NCAA Super Six team finals. BGSU returns nine gymnastics from the 2011 squad that finished 1-12, while Wisconsin-Oshkosh returns two NCGA qualifiers.
Gymnastics parking is available in the following surface lots and parking structures:
• Joe Craft Center North E-Lot - large lot located north of the Joe Craft Center, and accessible via Lexington Avenue or Rose St.
• Memorial Coliseum E-Lot - located between Lexington Ave and MLK Blvd. and south (towards Euclid) of the center drive lane. Note: The residential (R1) lot in the northern portion of the MLK lot will also be available for Excite Night at the Kentucky Classic because of the Holiday Break
• Student Center Lot - off Euclid Ave
• Handicapped Parking (first come-first served until full) is located in the Northeast corner of the MLK South Lot, must have valid state-issued hang tag.
• Good Samaritan surface Lot - accessible off MLK Blvd
• Parking Structure #5 - entrances off Limestone and S. Upper
Tickets to the event are available by calling the UK Ticket Office at (859) 257-1818 or toll free at 1-800-928-2287. Fans in attendance will have numerous chances to win prizes, including a family four pack of tickets to see Shrek the Musical on Feb. 19. Junior Wildcat Club members who show their badge will receive free admission to the event and a special gift. After the meet, the entire team will sign autographs.
Reserved tickets for gymnastics events are $5 each, regardless of age, while general admission tickets are $5 for adults, $2 for seniors and youth. Tickets can be purchased by calling the ticket office at 1-800-928-2287. Tickets are also sold at the Joe Craft Center Ticket Office on the night of the event. Group tickets (20+ people) are available by calling the ticket office in advance of the event. Gymnastics season tickets (reserved seats) are available for only $15.
For more information on the Kentucky gymnastics team, follow "UKGymnastics" on Twitter and Facebook or visit UKathletics.com.