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    SEC Gymnastics Today: Friday, January 10

    No. 21 UK Gymnastics Opens Season with Win on Excite Night

    LEXINGTON, Ky. - In front of a lively crowd of nearly 6,000 fans, the No. 21 University of Kentucky gymnastics team defeated three teams to win the annual Excite Night at the Kentucky Classic event to open the 2014 season Friday night in Memorial Coliseum.

    Kentucky (3-0, 0-0 SEC) scored a 195.000, ahead of No. 15 Penn State's 193.975. West Virginia placed third with a 193.700, while Ball State scored a 190.875. UK senior Audrey Harrison won the all-around title with a 39.075 along with a win on beam with a 9.850. She joined redshirt junior Kayla Hartley with a meet-best 9.825 on floor.

    “The meet tonight was exactly what we hoped to see," UK head coach Tim Garrison said. "What we wanted to see was fight, grit. If they struggled, not let it affect them. And that’s exactly what we saw tonight. We saw it on every event. We saw it on the first event. We started off great on vault. We had two back-to-back that didn’t do so well. They very easily could have put their heads down and given up on them. They didn’t. They took a step forward, pulled their chest up and performed well for the rest of the way.”

    The Wildcats claimed the top scores on vault with a 48.600, beam with a 48.675 and floor with a 48.950. UK's uneven bars score of 48.775 was second to West Virginia's.

    The win came in front of an opening-night crowd of 5,839. It marked the largest crowd for a UK gymnastics meet since 6,875 in 2007.

    “Almost 6,000 people," Garrison said. "It was electric. It was a fun night. When one of our athletes would hit a landing, the whole place would just go crazy. That’s what we want to bring back three weeks from now when we come back and compete here.”

    The Wildcats hit the road for the second week of the season when they travel to Knoxville, Tenn., for the Ozone Invite Jan. 18. UK will compete against No. 2 Alabama and No. 10 Nebraska in the neutral-site event at 8 p.m. ET. Kentucky's next home contest is Feb. 7 against No. 1 and defending national champion Florida.

    UK opened on floor, where it posted a 48.600, led by senior Holly Cunningham's 9.800 and junior Kenzie Hedges' 9.775. Junior Shannon Mitchell tallied a 9.725 on the first collegiate vault, while Harrison notched a 9.700. Junior Shelby Hilton, who competed on all four events, rounded out UK's scoring with a 9.600.

    Kentucky followed it up with a 48.775 on uneven bars, the highest score on the event by just 0.025 over Penn State. The Wildcats were led by sophomore Amy Roemmele's 9.8250, the third-highest total on the event of any gymnast. Hartley finished just behind with a 9.800, while sophomore Montana Whittle scored a 9.775 in her first collegiate competition. Harrison totaled a 9.700 and fellow senior Kayla Sienkowski notched a 9.675.

    The Wildcats' strong showing on bars gave them the lead after two events, which they would never relinquish.

    On balance beam, Harrison's 9.850 tied a career high and led all gymnasts on the event. Mitchell and Hilton each finished with a 9.750, the second-best score of any competitor on the night. Hilton's score marked the first time in her career she competed on beam. Sienkowski scored a 9.675, while Cunningham posted a 9.650.

    UK saved its best score for last, with a meet-high 48.950 on floor exercise. Harrison and Hartley led all gymnasts, each with a 9.825. Hedges tallied a 9.800 and Hilton and Mitchell both scored a 9.750.

    Hilton, competing in the all-around for the first time in her career, totaled a 38.700.
     


     

    No. 8 Georgia Scores 196.500 In Season-Opening Loss At No. 3 Oklahoma

    NORMAN, Okla. - The eighth-ranked Georgia gymnastics team fell to No. 3 Oklahoma, 197.700-196.500 in the season-opener for both teams Friday night at the Lloyd Noble Center. Despite the loss, it was Georgia's highest score in a road opener since 2009.

    Lindsey Cheek began her senior season with a pair of 9.9s on vault and bars, and Brandie Jay and Chelsea Davis also scored 9.9s on vault and bars, respectively.  Brittany Rogers turned in a 39.375 in the all-around.

    "I'm really proud of the team, and I told them that," said UGA head coach Danna Durante. "We didn't come away with the win, but there were a lot of positives. It was the highest score in a road opener in five years. They competed well, but we were nervous. But I'm still proud of them and pleased with the way we performed tonight."

    Oklahoma (1-0) jumped out to an early lead with a 49.475 on vault, while Georgia (0-1) scored a 49.250 on bars. Cheek and Davis each had a 9.9, while Rogers added a 9.85.

    The Sooners extended their lead by a tenth in the second rotation. OU turned in a 49.35 for a 98.825 team total, and the Gym Dogs posted a second straight 49.25 on vault for a 98.5 at the halfway point. Jay earned a 9.9 in the No. 4 spot, followed by Cheek's second 9.9 of the night.

    "We weren't in a bad spot at the halfway point, and we were on track for a 197," Durante said. "Even when you look back at the routines for those events, we gave a lot away on landings, but we were pleased with the way it started."

    Oklahoma used a 49.375 on beam in the third rotation to stretch its lead to 148.200-147.525. UGA scored a 49.025 on floor, and Cat Hires had the team's highest score with a 9.85.

    Georgia closed the meet with a 48.975 on beam, while Oklahoma scored a 49.5 on floor.

    Three freshmen competed for the first time in their Georgia careers as Ashlyn Broussard, Kiera Brown and Morgan Reynolds performed a total of six routines. Lauren Johnson also performed a vault exhibition.

    Georgia's season-opening road trip continues as the Gym Dogs will travel to Stanford for a 5 p.m. ET meet on Sunday.
     




    Alabama Gymnastics Beats Missouri, 197.150-193.425

    TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The No. 2 ranked Alabama gymnastics team opened the 2014 season with a 197.150-193.425 win over Missouri in front of 12,971 fans in Coleman Coliseum Friday night. It was the highest opening score in Crimson Tide history.

    Kim Jacob opened her senior season by winning the all-around with a 39.525, tying her career best.  Freshman Katie Bailey was second in the all-around with a 39.325 while senior Sarah DeMeo, in her first all-around appearance since midway through her freshman year, took third with a 39.100.

    The Tide opened the 2014 season with a 49.300 on the vault, led by senior Diandra Milliner’s 9.925 and DeMeo’s 9.875. It marked the first time since her sophomore season that DeMeo has gone on the vault.

    After a strong start on the vault, Alabama exploded on the uneven bars, scoring a 49.475 – better than any of the Tide’s 2013 totals - behind a trio of 9.9 or better scores. Senior Kim Jacob and freshman Amanda Jetter posted career-best 9.925s, while junior Kaitilyn Clark closed out the Tide’s set with a 9.9.

    On the balance beam, Alabama scored a 49.075 led by Jacob’s 9.875. Freshman Aja Sims, who joined the Tide on Dec. 26 after graduating early from high school, posted a 9.825 on the beam as did Clark.

    The Tide closed strong on the floor exercise where Milliner posted a 9.95 and Jacob went 9.925, to pace the Tide to a 49.300 team score.

    Alabama hits the road for its next meet, taking on Kentucky and Nebraska on Jan. 17 in Knoxville, Tenn. Tickets for the Tide’s home meets and the SEC and NCAA Championships are on sale through the Alabama Ticket Office (205.348.2262) located in the lobby of Coleman Coliseum, and online at RollTide.com.
     



    No. 5 LSU Shatters Season-Opener Scoring Record With 197.200

    BATON ROUGE – For the first time in school history, the fifth-ranked LSU gymnastics squad eclipsed a 197 team score in a season opener as the Tigers rolled to a 197.200 in a victory over Centenary Friday night in the Maravich Center.

    The previous high score in a season opener was a 196.075 last season against North Carolina State.

    LSU (1-0) fed off the energy of 3,363 fans in the arena throughout the competition, scoring a 49.425 on vault, 49.125 on bars, 49.250 on beam and 49.400 on floor to reach the final 197.200 total.

    Centenary finished with a 181.575 to fall to 0-1 to open the season.

    Junior Rheagan Courville captured the all-around title, the 14th all-around crown of her career, with a 39.600, while junior Jessie Jordan set a career-high with a 39.500 to place second in the all-around.

    “Momentum is a very strong medicine, and once you start feeding on it, it can really take you a long way,” head coach D-D Breaux. “We have a great team, and they have prepared well every time we go in the gym. They are responsive and extremely coachable, and they are destined for greatness.”

    LSU got off to a fast start with a 49.425 on vault, the best team vault total in a season opener since a 49.450 to open the 2007 season. Sarie Morrison posted a 9.925 to take home the event title, while Jordan placed second with a 9.90. Courville and Britney Ranzy tied for third with a 9.875. Kaleigh Dickson scored a 9.85, and Ashleigh Gnat posted a 9.775 in her first performance as a Tiger.

    LSU tallied a 49.125 on bars, finishing strong in the event with a 9.825 by Jordan, 9.875 from Ranzy, 9.85 from Courville and a 9.925 from Morrison. It marked the 21st bars title in Morrison’s career, extending her own LSU record.

    Courville and Jordan led the way on beam with matching 9.925’s at the end of the lineup. Gnat registered a 9.850, Hall scored a 9.80 and freshman Sydney Ewing tallied a 9.750 in her first performance at LSU to help the Tigers tally a 49.250 in the event.

    LSU wrapped up the meet with a 49.400 on floor, highlighted by a near-flawless performance from Courville that scored a 9.95. Jessica Savona finished second in the event with a 9.90, and Gnat was third with a 9.875. Jordan added a 9.85, and Lloimincia Hall earned a 9.825 to round out the scoring.

    “We are where we need to be to start the season,” Breaux said. “Picking a lineup is extremely difficult because our ladies all compete their hardest in the gym, and it showed tonight. This team is the real deal.”

    The Tigers travel to Athens, Ga., next week to face No. 8 Georgia at 6:30 p.m. CT in the Southeastern Conference opener.
     




    No. 13 Auburn Defeats TWU to Open 2014 Season

    AUBURN, Ala. - A strong score on floor in the final rotation helped No. 13 Auburn gymnastics post its best opening score since 2010 and defeat Texas Woman’s University 194.875-189.825 in the Tigers’ season opener Friday in Auburn Arena.

    Auburn’s score of 49.325 on floor helped the Tigers achieve its best score in a season opener under head coach Jeff Graba.

    “We wanted to come out a little better this year,” said Graba. “I think we did that and we usually try to get our feet wet in the first week then ramp it up. I’m not surprised we had a couple of hiccups, but I think this team will ramp it up faster than our last three.”

    All-around scores from sophomore Caitlin Atkinson and junior Bri Guy led the Tigers. Guy’s vault score of 9.900 was the highest individual score for any event and Atkinson won the all-around title with a total of 39.200.

    The Tigers also took home the title on all four events.

    Sophomore Lexus Demers broke a career-high score on balance beam with a 9.750, as well as setting a new career mark in floor exercise with a score of 9.875. Demers also tied her career-high on vault with a 9.750.

    “It feels really good,” said Demers. “It was unexpected, but I feel really happy that I was able to do something about it. I took the drive from being an alternate last year and I tried hard to earn my spot.”

    Three Auburn gymnasts competed in their first collegiate meet Friday, freshmen M.J. Rott and Kullen Hlawek along with redshirt freshman Kelsey Kopec. Rott earned a 9.875 on the floor exercise, tying three other Auburn gymnasts for the meet’s highest floor score.

    “I was excited to see what M.J. did for us tonight, Kullen too,” said Graba. “Kullen is competing her worst event for us because she has a wrap on her leg. She’s the national floor champ and we can’t even get her out there in our floor lineup. For her to rise to the occasion in her worst event and lead off, that’s a tough position for a freshman.”

    The Tigers struggled on beam scoring a 47.650, but Graba says he expects it to become their best event.

    “That’s a pretty technical event so I guess I wasn’t overly surprised,” said Graba. “The team has put a lot of pressure on themselves to be good and I think of all the events that’s going to crop up on, it’s beam. The rest of the meet is what we expect from this team and it’s only going to get better.”

    Auburn will return to action Saturday, Jan. 17 against the reigning national champion Florida Gators at 7 p.m. in Auburn Arena.
     




    No. 11 Razorbacks Open Season With a 196.200

    FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The No. 11 University of Arkansas gymnastics team posted a 196.200 to kick-start the 2014 season with a tri-meet win over Bridgeport (190.975) and Western Michigan (190.650). The team’s score Friday is the second-highest score in a season opener for the Razorbacks.  

    Senior All-American Katherine Grable led the Razorbacks with an all-around score of a 39.475 to claim three event titles for the meet on the vault, floor and all-around to make her grand total of her career at 37. Sophomore Sydnie Dillard nailed her first routine of the 2014 season on the beam to the tune of a 9.90 and set a career best and capture the event title.

    “I think a solid score like this for the team is great to start the season,” Grable said. “I think this meet will really build our confidence to start the season.”

    Freshmen Samantha Nelson and Amanda Wellick each scored routines of 9.80 plus to begin their careers as Razorbacks. Wellick earned three scores better than a 9.80 on the bars (9.875), beam (9.825) and floor (9.825) to earn her first all-around score of a 39.300. Nelson added a 9.825 on the beam.

    “I think to start the season off with such a strong score, reiterates how much potential we have on this team,” co-head coach René Lyst said. “This is a phenomenal team and we are really excited for this season. To go out of the gates with such a strong score is really exciting.”

    The Razorbacks started the meet in Olympic order on the vault and picked up a 48.975 for the rotation with two scores above a 9.80. Senior Scarlett Williams recorded a 9.80 in her return to the lineup after missing the 2013 campaign. Grable started off her night by sticking a 9.875 to anchor the rotation.

    On the bars, the Razorbacks had a string of three routines in a row to end the rotation of 9.80 plus to score a 49.225 for the event. Sophomore Erin Freier scored a 9.85 in the second spot in the lineup and then Wellick, Grable and senior Shelby Salmon finished the lineup strong for the Razorbacks. Wellick recorded a 9.875, Grable a 9.85 and Salmon a 9.875.

    On the beam, the Razorbacks recorded the second-highest rotation of the meet with a 49.175 after the last four up scored better than 9.825. Wellick started the strong scores with a 9.825 followed by SEC All-Freshman teamer Dillard who set a career best at 9.90. Nelson added a 9.825 to the rotation and Grable anchored with a 9.85.

    “Hopefully myself and the team can continue to get better on the beam this year,” sophomore Dillard said. “The whole team this year is amazing on the beam and we are looking to break some records.”

    In the final rotation, the Razorbacks finished strong with a 9.80 from sophomore Heather Elswick followed by a 9.825 from Wellick. Grable capped the meet with a 9.90 on the floor to win the event and make the Razorbacks final score of 196.200.

    The Razorbacks will return to action when the team travels to Columbia, Mo., to compete in the squad’s first road conference meet against Missouri. The meet is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.

    For more information on Arkansas gymnastics, follow @RazorbackGYM on Twitter.

     



    Preseason No. 1 Gator gymnastics team nips No. 4 UCLA to open 2014 season

    LOS ANGELES, Calif. - The preseason top-ranked Florida gymnastics team claimed a win by the narrowest margin possible - 0.025 - at No. 4 UCLA in the season opener for both teams held in front of Pauley Pavilion crowd of 5,265. The Gators’ total of 196.65 put a fraction in Florida’s favor as the Bruins posted a total of 196.625.

    Florida Event Winners Saturday

    Uneven Bars:
    Bridgette Caquatto
    9.900

    Floor Exercise
    Kytra Hunter
    9.925

    All-Around
    Kytra Hunter
    39.375

    In the all-time four regular-season meetings between the two teams in Pauley Pavilion, tonight was the first Gator win in the Bruins’ home arena. This was the second Pauley Pavilion appearance for the Gators in as many meets, as Florida finished the 2013 season by winning the program’s first NCAA Championship in the arena last April.

    It was evident that it was first meet of the season for both teams as some routines were missing the polish that comes with more competitions. Florida had a fall on three of the four events, but none of those misses were computed into the final team total. The Gators owned a three-tenths lead heading into the final rotation. The Bruins turned in their highest event total of the evening, 49.375, on floor exercise but Florida finished with just enough, 49.10, on balance beam to take the win.