Gymnastics Begins Postseason at SEC Championship Saturday
SEC GYMNASTICS CHAMPIONSHIP
Kentucky is 28th nationally with a 195.585 Regional Qualifying Score. UK boasts top-22 rankings on both floor and vault. The Wildcats are 16th on floor with a 49.185 RQS and 22nd on vault with a 49.100. UK is also 28th on bars with a 48.925 RQS and 41st on beam with a 48.565.
Six SEC teams are ranked in the top 25, led by defending-national champion and top-ranked Florida, with a 197.790 RQS. LSU is second with a 197.720, while Alabama is fourth with a 197.405. Georgia is sixth with a 197.200 RQS. All four teams competing in the second session are also ranked in the top 10 on all four events.
Joining the Wildcats in the championships’ first session is No. 12 Auburn, with a 196.560 RQS and No. 15 Arkansas, with a 196.355. Mizzou, with a 194.745 RQS, is tied for 38th in the national standings. Auburn is in the top 15 on each event, while Arkansas is in the top 17. Missouri is ranked within the top 42 on all four events.
RECORD-BREAKERS ON FLOOR
UK’s most consistent and highest-scoring event this season has been floor exercise. Kentucky is ranked 16h nationally with a 49.185 RQS, led by a program-record 49.650 on Feb. 28.
Kentucky’s highest event scores in all but two meets have come on floor, while three of UK’s top four team scores also are on floor exercise. The Wildcats have scored a 49.000 or higher in eight of its last nine meets.
In Feb. 28’s upset win over Auburn, the Wildcats closed with a school-record 49.650 on floor. The third-highest floor score in the country at the time, Kentucky became the third team this season to count five scores of 9.925 or higher in one meet. Led by senior Audrey Harrison’s 9.950, juniors Shelby Hilton, Kenzie Hedges and Kayla Hartley and freshman Taylor Puryear all recorded a 9.925.
In nearly all of UK’s 11 meets, it has been a consistent effort from the Wildcats that resulted in high totals. Kentucky has had 10 meets where it counted all five scores at 9.725 or higher and six with five scores of 9.775 or above. The Wildcats have also racked up seven meets with all six scores recorded at a 9.700 or better.
UK VS. THE SEC IN 2014
Kentucky finished its SEC schedule with a 2-5 record, with wins over No. 11 Auburn and at Missouri. The Wildcats’ win at Mizzou gave them road wins in league competition in back-to-back seasons after a win at Auburn in 2013. Before last season, UK’s last road SEC win came in 1999.
UK’s five losses all came to higher-ranked teams, including two meets against the No. 1 team, vs. Florida and at LSU. All but one of UK’s seven league meets came against ranked opponents, while Kentucky faced 13 ranked teams this season, the most of any SEC team.
HARRISON IN THE RECORD BOOKS
With a 9.925 on beam on Feb. 28 against Auburn, senior Audrey Harrison became just the third Wildcat in program history to score a 9.900 or higher on all four events in her career. The Knoxville, Tenn., native had notched a 9.900 on vault, bars and floor entering her senior season, but her career-best on beam was a 9.850 until her 9.925 in UK’s third home meet. That same night, she bested her career-high on floor, with a 9.950.
The conference’s leading all-around winner in SEC competition last season, Harrison has won 10 event titles this year and has posted the teams’ top score on floor, beam and all-around. Her RQS scores also rank within the top three on the team on each event.
NO ONE HAS FACED MORE RANKED OPPONENTS
No SEC team has faced more ranked teams than the Wildcats. In 11 meets this year, UK has squared off against 13 ranked teams, two more than Alabama’s 11, the team with the next most. Just one contest of Kentucky’s, at Missouri on Jan. 24, did not feature a ranked opponent.
UK has faced the No. 1 team twice, vs. Florida on Feb. 7 and again at LSU on March 14, while the Wildcats have faced eight teams ranked eighth or higher. In the current GymInfo Top 25, Kentucky has competed against all of the top four teams at least once and six of the top nine.
UP NEXT: NCAA SELECTION SHOW
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.
LAST TIME OUT: AT NO. 1 LSU
Kentucky closed out the regular season Feb. 14 at No. 1 LSU with a 197.800-195.000 loss. The Wildcats faced a team ranked No. 1 in the nation for the second time in 2014 and the Tigers were the eighth opponent ranked within the top eight that Kentucky faced in the regular season and the fourth in the top three.
For the third consecutive meet and the sixth time in the past seven contests, the Wildcats scored a 49.000 or higher on at least two events. UK registered a 49.025 on vault and a 49.250 on floor, the second and third rotations of the evening. Kentucky opened with a 48.950 on uneven bars and closed the meet with a 47.775 on balance beam.
Individually, senior Audrey Harrison registered a season-best 39.250 all-around score. Harrison, along with redshirt junior Kayla Hartley, led the Wildcats with a 9.875 on floor. Junior Kenzie Hedges posted a team-best 9.850 on vault, while senior Kayla Sienkowski notched team-high honors on uneven bars with a 9.850. Harrison also posted a team best 9.825 on balance beam in her final regular season meet of her career.
RECORD SCORES AT HOME
Kentucky has had unparalleled success at home in 2014. The friendly confines of Memorial Coliseum has yielded a 6-1 record for the home team, the best mark since 1991 when UK also went 6-1. The mark includes a win over then-No. 15 Penn State to open the season, along with victories over No. 11 Auburn and No. 22 California, all upsets.
With the wins have come record-breaking scores. In Feb. 28’s win over AU, Kentucky’s 49.650 on floor was a new school record by 0.200 points, while its 196.275 team score is the fifth-best in program history and the second best at home. A week later, a 196.150 went down as the third-best at home in team history.
RECORD CROWDS AT HOME
In UK’s four home meets this season, the Wildcats averaged 3,265 fans in Memorial Coliseum. The average marks the best home attendance for UK since at least the 1998 season, when records became available. Since 1998, the Wildcats have never averaged more than 3,000 fans.
As Kentucky beat three teams to win its season-opener on Jan. 10, it did so in front of one of the largest crowds in UK gymnastics history. A crowd of 5,839 witnessed the Excite Night victory, which marked the largest since 2007, when 6,875 were in attendance. It also marked the third-largest UK home crowd since at least 1997.
PHIPPS NAMED TO SEC COMMUNITY SERVICE TEAM
Sophomore Tiara Phipps was named to the 2014 SEC Gymnastics Community Service Team. It is Phipps’ first Community Service Team honor.
Phipps’ community service work is highlighted by a mission trip with 10 other UK student-athletes to Ethiopia last summer. During the week-long trip, they repainted schools, helped build houses, supplied families with mosquito nets along with interacting with several communities.
The San Antonio, Texas, native also has volunteered with Hope for Haiti, packed meals at Southland Christian Church, assisted with the UK Blanked Project and packed backpacks for the Back Pack Program this season.