By Jacob Most
Jan. 5, 2013 -
BERKELEY, Calif. – Four teams from the nation’s top-two gymnastics conferences will face off to start the 2013 season when Kentucky travels to Northern California on Sunday.
UK will be joined by Southeastern Conference rival No. 13 Auburn in a quad meet with Pac-12 foes in California and No. 19 Arizona inside Haas Pavilion on the Cal campus beginning at 5 p.m. ET.
The meet will air on a delayed basis on the Pac-12 Networks.
The Wildcats enter 2013 with a No. 25 preseason ranking, marking the third-straight season the Wildcats begin the season ranked inside the top 25. Kentucky is also inside the preseason top-25 for the sixth time in the last seven years.
Sunday’s meet will mark the start of head coach Tim Garrison’s second season at UK.
Kentucky is coming off one of the finest seasons in program history after posting three consecutive scores of 195.875 or higher to finish the season with the team’s best-ever three meet stretch.
The Wildcats return 10 letterwinners from the 2012 team, which finished the season ranked No. 25. The final rating made Garrison the first head coach in school history to take his team to a top-25 final ranking in his first season, based on records dating to 1996.
Kentucky’s returners boast a combined 14 event titles from last season. Audrey Harrison, Kayla Sienkowski, Kayla Hartley, Kenzie Hedges, Holly Cunningham and Shannon Mitchell all contributed individual titles in 2012. Alexis Gross, Sara Shipley and Shelby Hilton will also add experience this campaign.
Newcomers Marissa Beucler, Jill Chappel, Tiara Phipps, Shannon Reynolds, Amy Roemmele and Montana Whittle will look to strengthen a team that built a strong foundation in Garrison’s first season at UK.
With so much experience returning to the lineup plus the addition of talented newcomers on each event there has been a healthy excitement inside the gym in recent weeks. That enthusiasm has all been in anticipation of a new season.
The Wildcats will face a challenging slate in 2013, including home meets against four ranked opponents and traveling to face five more elite teams in dual meets. All eight Southeastern Conference programs are ranked in the preseason poll.
The Wildcats defeated Auburn last season in Lexington, and are 28-34 all-time against the Tigers. Kentucky edged Arizona in the most recent meeting between Wildcats, a tri meet, but Arizona owns a 10-1 record against UK all-time. The Wildcats are 1-0 all-time against Cal as UK edged the Golden Bears at the 1999 UCLA Invitational.
Live scoring will be updated via the UK Gymnastics social media accounts. Follow "UKGymnastics" on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.