LEXINGTON, Ky. – Led by sophomore Audrey Harrison’s first career individual all-around title, the No. 23 University of Kentucky gymnastics team kicked off the opening night of the Tim Garrison Era in fine fashion Saturday, finishing second at the Excite Night at the Kentucky Classic event with a team score of 194.325 in front of 3,686 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
"This is a great starting point for us,” said UK gymnastics head coach Tim Garrison, who is in his first season with the program. “I think that our youth showed tonight with some mistakes, but I’m excited about what I saw out of this team tonight. We keep telling them that they just need to keep improving every day and we will be where we want to be at season's end. We are happy to get the first meet under our belt and now we have to work hard this week in practice before we hit the road to Arkansas."
No. 4 Oklahoma, which returns 18 of 24 routines from last year’s squad that finished third at the NCAA Super Six team finals, won the event with a score of 195.875. Bowling Green State finished third with a score of 188.925, while Wisconsin-Oshkosh finished fourth with a mark of 174.725.
Harrison headlined the individual honors for the Wildcats, claiming her first career all-around title with a mark of 38.375. Harrison earned the all-around score after a 9.8 on vault, 9.25 on bars, 9.55 on beam and 9.775 on floor. Freshman Sara Shipley, who enrolled at UK in January, took home event honors on vault, finishing tied for fourth with a score of 9.85, while senior Storey Morris finished fourth on beam, scoring 9.750.
Kentucky (2-1) started the meet off by posting its highest event score of the night, earning a 49.025 on vault. Shipley led the Wildcats with a score of 9.85, while fellow freshman Kenzie Hedges began her UK career in style with a mark of 9.825. Morris, who was in the vault lineup for the first time since her freshman season, and Harrison each posted career-high scores of 9.8. Junior Caitlyn Ciokajlo wrapped up the event for UK with a mark of 9.3.
Uneven bars were also a strong event for the Wildcats. The UK lineup posted a 48.5 on the event, led by Ciokajlo, who posted a 9.725. Three Wildcats earned a 9.7 on the event, including seniors Whitney Rose and Morris, and sophomore Kayla Hartley, who was participating in her first collegiate meet. Freshman Alexi Gross started her UK career off with a 9.675 on bars, while Harrison concluded the UK scoring on the event with a 9.25.
Kentucky posted a solid score on balance beam of 48.3, which is six tenths of a point away from last year’s season high team score on the event. Morris headed UK’s efforts on the event, scoring a team high 9.75, while freshman Kayla Sienkowski made the most of her first time in a collegiate beam lineup, going 9.7. Gross and Cunningham, who were also making they debuts in the Wildcats beam lineup, went 9.675 and 9.625, respectively. Harrison went 9.55 on beam, while freshman Shannon Mitchell went 9.125.
The Wildcats concluded the night on floor exercise, earning a team score of 48.5. Harrison paced UK on the event with a 9.775, while Sienkowski tied a career high with a mark of 9.75. UK’s other four gymnasts on the event were making their collegiate floor exercise debuts with freshmen Gross and Mitchell leading the way at 9.75 and 9.65, respectively. Hartley posted a 9.575 in her first collegiate floor routine, while Shipley went 9.0.
Kentucky will be back in action again Friday when it travels to Arkansas to face the No.11 Razorbacks. The dual meet is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. ET. Live results from the meet will be available at UKathletics.com.
UK's next home meet is Friday, Jan. 20 against No. 3 Florida at 7 p.m.