Tough Breaks Leave Cats Seventh at SEC Gymnastics Championships
DULUTH, Ga.—The University of Kentucky gymnastics squad competed in the 25th annual SEC Gymnastics Championship at the Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga. Saturday. The Cats were dealt an injury on the first event of the evening, as sophomore Krystle Cook sprained her ankle on floor and did not return. Cook was to compete on three apparatuses for UK. The team finished with a score of 193.800 in seventh-place in front of 7,518 SEC gymnastics fans.
“It was very upsetting knowing that I couldn’t support the team the way that I wanted to,” said UK sophomore Krystle Cook. “I am very proud of the girls for moving on and finishing the meet as strong as they did. A last minute injury like mine is very hard to recover from and they did great.”
The University of Georgia recorded high marks on all four apparatuses to claim the SEC title with a score of 197.250, while LSU finished second with a score of 196.975. The GymDogs defended their 2004 title, and took home its sixth crown in the last seven years. Alabama finished third with a score of 196.700 and Florida took fourth with a 196.150. Arkansas and Auburn finished fifth and sixth, with scores of 195.325 and 195.125, respectively.
After a first round bye UK opened the championship on the team’s signature event, the floor exercise. Senior co-captain Michelle Gales led UK with an impressive 9.9 on floor, her highest score of the evening. The mark tied her for second-place, and was her sixth 9.9 or higher mark on floor of the season and 24th of her career.
“I had been trying to place on floor for the past three years and I finally did that tonight,” said Gales.
Junior Lucy Burgin added a 9.7, while Rachel Riley scored a 9.775. Senior Krista Prestigiacomo earned a mark of 9.6, and with Cook’s injury the team counted freshman Kristen O’Shields’ 9.15. The team finished its first rotation with a score of 48.125 and awaited the vault after a third rotation bye.
“It hurt us to count a fall on floor, and to lose our top scorer on bars and vault,” said UK head coach Mo Muhammad. “It was hard to recover. Krystle’s injury took the wind out of our sails.”
The squad turned in a 48.575 on vault, led by Burgin’s score of 9.775. Junior counterpart Staci O’Keefe recorded a mark of 9.75 and Gales and O’Shields both garnered scores of 9.7. Senior Lindsay Cameron also helped UK with a score of 9.625 and Riley competed in the place of Cook. The team concluded its second apparatus with a team score of 96.7.
Kentucky competed on bars for its third event, recording the team’s highest mark of the meet, a 48.675. Gales was UK’s top competitor on bars with a 9.8, while Burgin added a 9.75. Freshman Crissy Cannon finished with a score of 9.725. Sarai Sevier and Cameron both earned 9.7s. Cameron’s performance on bars was the first of the season, as she was filling in for Cook. Kentucky moved on to its fourth rotation with a score of 145.375.
“There were a lot of positives that came out of this meet,” said Muhammad. “I am proud of the girls who stepped up.”
The beam proved to be a tough apparatus for UK, as the team recorded a 48.425. Riley and Bethany Strauch led the Cats with 9.85s on beam. Riley’s mark was a season-best. Burgin scored a 9.675, while Cannon added a 9.6.
Riley, Burgin and Gales all competed in the all-around competition for Kentucky. Riley tied her season-high all-around score with a mark of 39.075, while Burgin garnered a 38.9 and Gales a 38.6.
“The difference between this season and last is that SEC’s is not our last meet,” said Muhammad. “We have been up and down this season and an up is next, that means an up for Regionals.”
Kentucky will compete next in Central Region competition in Tuscaloosa, Ala. April 9.