Feb. 29, 2012
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- After posting its highest score of the season behind dazzling team scores on uneven bars and floor exercise, the University of Kentucky gymnastics team looks for more of the same when it hits the road to face No. 21 Illinois in a dual meet Friday at 8 p.m. ET in Champaign, Ill. The meet will be a doubleheader dual meet, as the Illinois men’s team will compete at the same time against Ohio State inside Huff Hall.
Kentucky (5-6, 1-5 Southeastern Conference) was very impressive last Friday in a tri-meet with No. 15 Auburn and Pittsburgh. The Wildcats scored a season-best 195.525 in the event, while Auburn finished second with a 195.15 and Pittsburgh third with a 193.325. The win over SEC foe Auburn was Kentucky’s first conference win since it defeated LSU last season in Memorial Coliseum. UK has now earned at least one SEC win in each of the last three seasons, which is the longest streak since defeating Auburn three-straight years (1998-2000).
The Wildcats were flawless on several events, posting season-high team scores on uneven bars and floor exercise. Kentucky scored a 49.125 on bars, which was tied for the 12th-highest score on the event in school history. Senior Storey Morris led Kentucky on the apparatus with a career-high tying 9.9 to take home event honors. The co-captain has now earned a 9.9 or higher on bars two times in her career. Junior Caitlyn Ciokajlo finished just behind Morris with a 9.85, while sophomore Audrey Harrison and freshman Sara Shipley each set career highs with 9.8s.
UK’s floor score of 49.2 was tied for the 16th-best in school history and the highest since Kentucky earned a 49.2 in the 2010 NCAA Regional in Lexington, Ky. Harrison led the charge on the event with an impressive 9.9, which was a career high for the sophomore. The native of Knoxville, Tenn., became only the 19th gymnast in school history to post a 9.9 or higher on the event. The score tied the highest score by a UK gymnast on any event this season. Sophomore Kayla Sienkowski and freshmen Alexis Gross, Kenzie Hedges and Shelby Hilton also earned career high floor scores during the event.
Harrison’s top score on floor helped her take home her second all-around title of the season with a career-best 39.175. On top of winning the event title on floor, Harrison also grabbed the highest score of the night on balance beam with a 9.75.
Kentucky’s solid performance last Friday increased its Regional Qualifying Score by over four tenths of a point to 194.450. The RQS ranks Kentucky 27th overall in the nation, just hundredths of a point outside the top 25. The Wildcats are ranked in the top 30 in the nation on three events, including 26th on vault with an RQS of 48.75. UK sits 29th on uneven bars and balance beam with an RQS of 48.615 and 48.345, respectively. Garrison’s squad is 35th on floor with a RQS of 48.640.
The Wildcats have performed well on the road this season, earning 195-plus team scores in two of their last three 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.
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. The Wildcats have never faced Illinois in Champaign.
The Illini are coming off a setback at Illinois-Chicago last weekend, falling to the Flames 195.250-193.975. Illinois is ranked 21st in the nation with an RQS of 195.155, while its highest score of the season is a 195.775. UI is ranked in the top 25 in the nation on uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise. Illinois’ best event is beam, where it ranks tied for 10th in the nation with an RQS of 48.935.
Live scores from the meet will be available at UKathletics.com, while fans can also follow along by following “UKGymnastics” on Twitter or Facebook.
For more information on the Kentucky gymnastics team, visit UKathletics.com.