April 6, 2012
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Behind arguable one of the best months of gymnastics in school history, where it ended the regular season with three-consecutive scores of 195.875 or higher and tied the best finish in school history at the Southeastern Conference Champions, the University of Kentucky gymnastics team looks to keep its momentum going at the NCAA Regional in Champaign, Ill., on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET.
The 2012 NCAA Champaign Regional will take place at Assembly Hall on the campus of the University of Illinois. Tickets to the event can be purchased through the Illinois Athletic Ticket Office by calling 1-866-ILLINI-1. All tickets for the NCAA Regional are general admission. Live video will be available online during the entire competition where fans will have the opportunity to select which event to watch at any time by using the links posted at the bottom of the page. Live scores will also be available.
Saturday’s appearance marks the 24th all-time NCAA Regional bid for the Wildcats. Kentucky (11-10) earned the qualifying spot behind a Regional Qualifying Score of 195.49, which is the second-highest RQS in school history. The high mark ranks UK 24th in the nation in the latest GymInfo team standings. UK ranks in the top 25 on two events, sitting 20th in the nation on balance beam and 24th in the nation on vault. The Wildcats are also 26th on uneven bars and tied for 32nd on floor exercise.
UK is one of 36 teams from around the country to earn a regional invitation, while Champaign, Ill., is one of six national sites to play host to a regional this season. The top two performing teams from each regional advance to the NCAA Championship finals April 20-22 in Duluth, Ga. Top all-around competitions and individual specialists advance as well.
Joining 24th-ranked Kentucky in the Champaign Regional is No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 11 Stanford, No. 14 Denver, No. 22 Illinois and No. 32 Illinois-Chicago. The Wildcats faced three of the five teams already this season, including a win over Illinois in Champaign. UK also posted a road win at Illinois-Chicago, while it fell in the opening meet of the season to Oklahoma in Memorial Coliseum.
Kentucky will use the rotation of balance beam, floor exercise, vault and uneven bars at the event. UK has been strong on beam this season, posting three of the top-15 scores in school history in 2012. Entering the season, UK had only scored a 49.0 or higher on beam 11 times in 37 years, while doing it two times this season.
This marks the eighth consecutive year UK has advanced to the NCAA Regional competition. Last year, Kentucky finished fifth in the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional behind the highest team score at a NCAA Regional in school history with a 195.175. UK’s best finish at a regional was third at the 1990 Gainesville Regional and at the 1996 Tuscaloosa Regional. The Wildcats have finished as high as fourth at a regional three times, including 2001, 2005 and 2006.
Kentucky is having a strong first season under head coach Tim Garrison, who became the first head coach in school history to led UK to a 196 team score in year one of a tenure. Garrison and Co. have had a lot of success recently, posting three consecutive team scores of 195.875 or higher to end the regular season. That stretch was the best in school history and included Kentucky’s season-high 196.025, which marked only the 10th score of 196 or higher in program history.
UK is coming off a fifth-place finish at the SEC Championships in Duluth, Ga., on Saturday, which tied the best showing in school history. UK posted a team score of 194.350 at the event, while the Wildcats were impressive on vault and balance beam. UK earned a team score of 49.0 on vault behind a career-high tying 9.85 from sophomore Holly Cunningham. The high mark for Cunningham tied the highest vault score of the season for Kentucky. The Wildcats also performed well on balance beam with a team score of 48.725. Freshman Shannon Mitchell, sophomore Audrey Harrison and senior Storey Morris all scored 9.775s on beam to lead UK.
For more information on the Kentucky gymnastics team, follow “UKGymnastics” on Twitter and Facebook, or visit UKathletics.com.
Links to Live Video/Live Scoring: