March 23, 2012
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- After a recent surge up the rankings behind some of the most impressive team scores in school history, the 24th-ranked University of Kentucky gymnastics is riding high confidence as it begins postseason competition this weekend at the Southeastern Conference Championships in Duluth, Ga.
The meet, which will feature all seven SEC teams, is being held this year at The Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga. The competition is scheduled to begin at approximately 4:05 p.m. ET time. Live scores from the action can be found at UKathletics.com, while tickets to the event are available at SECsports.com or by calling the Gwinnett arena directly at 1-800-745-3000.
UK will start the event with a bye before it begins the competition on uneven bars. The Wildcats will then move over to balance beam for the third rotation before its second bye during rotation four. UK will compete on floor exercise in rotation five before concluding the event on vault in rotation seven.
Kentucky (9-6, 1-5 SEC) is having one of the best seasons in school history as the Wildcats currently rank 24th in the nation with a Regional Qualifying Score of 195.490, which is the second highest in program history. UK also boasts a winning record heading into the SEC Championships for the first time since 2008, while its season-high score of 196.025 marked only the 10th score of 196 or higher in school history.
The Wildcats’ increase in RQS came after the best month of gymnastics that Kentucky has ever had. After a setback at top-five ranked Georgia, Kentucky has posted six-consecutive wins, earning high team scores in every meet. In fact, the Wildcats’ have posted three consecutive team scores of 195.875 or higher for the first time in school history. All told, UK has earned a 195 or higher in five of its last six meets, including four consecutive scores that exceeded 195.5.
Kentucky started its run with a solid team score of 195.525 on Feb. 24 to earn its lone SEC win of the season over top-25 ranked Auburn and Pittsburgh. A week later, UK posted another win over a top-25 foe with its 195.95 score at then-No. 21 Illinois before it secured the seventh-highest team score in school history on March 11 with a 196.025. Last week, UK had its third-best team score of the season with a 195.875 at Centenary.
Head coach Tim Garrison and Co. were dominate in the meet at Centenary, defeating the Ladies on every event, while a UK gymnast took home event honors on every apparatuses. The Wildcats posted high scores on all four events, including tying a season-high 49.125 on uneven bars. Individually, sophomore Audrey Harrison paced UK with her fourth all-around title of the season with a career-best 39.250. Senior Storey Morris and freshman Kenzie Hedges split the title on vault with 9.85s, while junior Caitlyn Ciokajlo won uneven bars, sophomore Kayla Sienkowski and freshman Shannon Mitchell shared the balance beam title, and sophomore Kayla Hartley claimed her third floor exercise title of the season.
The Wildcats are represented well in the event rankings, sitting in the top 31 on each event. Kentucky is 21st in the nation on balance beam with an RQS of 48.865, while also sitting in the top 25 on bars with a mark of 48.905. UK is 26th in the nation on vault at 48.915, while sitting 31st on floor with a 48.915 RQS.
UK will face tough competition at the meet as all seven SEC schools are ranked in the top 25 in the nation. Florida headlines the rankings as the top team in nation. The Gators have an RQS of 197.395, while their season high score is an impressive 197.9. Alabama, who are the defending NCAA Champions, are ranked third in the nation with a RQS of 197.155, while Georgia is fifth at 196.995. LSU and Arkansas are also ranked in the top 10. The Tigers are eighth with a RQS of 196.550, while Arkansas is 10th with a 196.545 mark. Auburn completes the rankings at No. 15 with a RQS of 195.965.
UK finished seventh last season at the SEC Championships in Birmingham, Ala., with a team score of 193.95. UK’s best event was vault, where it scored a 48.725. UK’s best finish at the event was fourth (out of six teams) in 1996, defeating LSU and Auburn with a score of 195.250. The Wildcats best score at the SEC Championships came in 2001 when they finished fifth with a 195.875.
For more information on the Kentucky gymnastics team, follow “UKGymnastics” on Twitter and Facebook, or visit UKathletics.com.