Kentucky Gymnastics Tops Mizzou as Season High Scores Set
COLUMBIA, Mo. - In its first true road meet of the season, the University of Kentucky gymnastics team had season high scores on three events to lead the way in a 195.150-193.775 win over Missouri Friday night at the Hearnes Center.
The Wildcats (4-2, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) won their first three events, vault, uneven bars and floor, all with season best scores. Individually, UK notched three event titles along with the all-around win from senior Audrey Harrison. Fifteen career or season highs were set or tied in UK's first dual contest of the year.
"We had a season high score on three events, so we're pleased with that," UK head coach Tim Garrison said. "We had some great performances by athletes that were entering lineups for the first time, and that was exciting to see. We let it get away from us a little bit at the end, and we're capable of much more and we're hoping to see that in the days to come.
Harrison led UK with a 38.675 to win the all-around title for the second time in three weeks to open the year. Harrison also won floor and tied two others, including sophomore Tiara Phipps, for the win on uneven bars. Sophomore Amy Roemmele won balance beam. Harrison posted UK's first 9.900 of the season on floor and tied Phipps on uneven bars, who was making her collegiate debut on the event.
For the first time this season, UK opened on uneven bars, and scored a season- and meet-high 48.875. Three Wildcats posted season bests, while Phipps made her presence known in her first bars appearance with a meet-high-tying 9.825. Harrison also scored a 9.825 and was joined by Hilton (9.775) and Sienkowski (9.750) with season highs.
After one event, the Wildcats held a 48.875-47.825 lead after the Tigers opened on vault.
Kentucky extended its lead with a 48.900 on vault, a season best on the event for the second consecutive weekend. Junior Kenzie Hedges and senior Holly Cunningham led UK with a 9.825 and Hilton notched a 9.800, all season highs. Beucler, along with Harrison, added a 9.725, which tied a career high for Beucler.
Halfway through the competition, the Wildcats held on to a 97.775-96.200 advantage, but it was a strong performance on floor that was the highlight and increased the lead to over two points.
UK turned in one of its best and most consistent routines of the season on floor with a 49.125. All six Wildcats, along with junior Shelby Hilton, who exhibitioned, scored a 9.700 or higher, led by Harrison's 9.900. The senior became the first UK gymnast in 2014 to record a 9.900 or higher, a score which tied her career best on the event.
Hedges posted a career-high-tying 9.875 and redshirt junior Hartley registered a 9.850 to tie her season best. Phipps brought in a season-high 9.775 and freshman Taylor Puryear recorded a career-best 9.725. In the exhibition, Hilton notched a 9.800, which tied her career high.
The Wildcats closed on balance beam, where a 48.250 was a season low. UK was led by Roemmele's 9.775, both a meet and career best. Cunningham's 9.725 was a season high, while sophomore Marissa Beucler and senior Kayla Sienkowski recorded a 9.675.
Despite the low beam score, Kentucky won by 1.375 points, its largest victory margin of the year. UK won three events as a team for the second time in 2014 and the Blue and White registered individual wins in three events also for the first time this season.
The Wildcats cap a three-week roadtrip at sixth-ranked Georgia on Feb. 1 at 4 p.m. ET. Last season, UK tied then-No. 6 UGA, 195.825-195.825 in Lexington. With a season-high team score, the Wildcats won beam and floor, the final two events. Audrey Harrison won the all-around title and notched the top score on floor while Alexis Gross tallied a win on bars.
For complete news and updates on the Kentucky Gymnastics program, go to UKathletics.com. Breaking news, behind-the-scenes updates, photos and more can be found on Twitter at @UKGymnastics and Facebook at Facebook.com/UKGymnastics.
Alabama Gymnastics Beats Arkansas, 197.125-196.100
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – In front of a sold-out crowd of 15,075 dressed mostly in pink, the No. 7 ranked Alabama gymnastics team beat No. 10 Arkansas 197.125-196.100 in the Crimson Tide’s 10th annual Power of Pink meet.
“I think sometimes the biggest thing I have to worry about on a night like tonight is the excitement at the beginning of the meet and the emotions, and then having the ladies, as we say, flip-it mentally, to get on track and compete after going through that,” UA head coach Sarah Patterson said. “They did a great job with that tonight. We weren’t perfect but we improved in a lot of different areas. I can’t be more proud of this team right now. We’re certainly on pace to do what we need to do.”
Senior Sarah DeMeo led the way for the Tide after scoring a 39.400 to take second in the all-around, less than a tenth of a point behind Arkansas’ Katherine Grable, the nation’s No. 1 ranked all-arounder.
The Tide finished the night off with a 49.225 on the floor exercise led by senior Kim Jacob’s 9.900. The Tide also got matching 9.875s from freshman Aja Sims and sophomore Lauren Beers.
In addition to scoring just shy of her career best in the all-around, DeMeo got the Tide off to a strong start on the vault with a career-best 9.925. Along with a 9.875 from senior Diandra Milliner and a 9.850 from sophomore Lauren Beers, DeMeo paced Alabama to a 49.300 on the vault.
On the uneven bars senior Kim Jacob led the way to a 49.300 team score with a meet-best 9.900. DeMeo led the Tide off with a 9.85 on the uneven bars, which was followed by a 9.875 from freshman Katie Bailey.
The Tide scored a season-best 49.300 on the balance beam led by Jacob’s 9.925 and a 9.9 from DeMeo as well as a great 9.875 leadoff routine from Milliner.
Prior to the meet, Alabama introduced 17 breast cancer survivors in the spot light along with the Tide gymnasts in what has become a Power of Pink tradition in Coleman Coliseum.
“This is definitely our favorite home meet every year because we feel like we’re competing for something bigger than just us,” DeMeo said. “Getting on a personal level with those survivors at the beginning really puts things into perspective.”
Two checks were also presented prior to the meet to the DCH Breast Cancer Fund, one for $108,900 representing all the money raised this past year and one for $1.45 million, representing the total raised over the past decade.
Alabama is back on the road for its next meet, traveling to Baton Rouge, La., to take on LSU on Friday, Jan. 31. 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.
Perfect 10s: Sloan and Hunter Team for Special Moment
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – About the only person in the O’Connell Center not smiling was Kytra Hunter.
Hunter paced back and forth off to the side of the mat where her teammate, Bridget Sloan, had just completed only the third perfect 10 during a floor routine in the history of the Florida gymnastics program.
The crowd of more than 10,000 erupted when the score was posted. Sloan’s teammates rushed to mob her as echoes of the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” – Sloan’s musical choice to accompany her floor routine – still rattled in your ears.
Gators coach Rhonda Faehn did what Coach Bela Karolyi did to her when Faehn scored a 10 on the vault at the 1987 U.S. Championships in Kansas City: she walked Sloan’s way and gave her a hug and a smile.
“When Bridget stopped her last tumbling pass, I knew,’’ Faehn said.
Meanwhile, amidst the electric atmosphere, Hunter continued to pace alone with the eye of the tiger. She could celebrate Sloan’s historic moment later.
There was work to do.
“I just knew I had to do what I do every day in practice,’’ Hunter said.
Hunter was up once a Georgia gymnast finished her turn on vault. She stepped onto the mat while the O’Dome’s speakers came alive.
Finally, a grin splashed across Hunter’s face when she finished her first tumbling pass. She knew. Faehn did, too. Ditto for Sloan.
Hunter was after her perfect 10.
“If I can get a 10, Kytra can get 11,’’ Sloan told Faehn.
Hunter nailed the routine and the scene played out all over again. Only this time, Hunter was part of the celebration.
“It was like an earthquake when we were on the floor,’’ Faehn recalled half an hour later.
In a matter of minutes Sloan and Hunter doubled the number of perfect 10s the Gators had in the program’s first 30-plus years in the floor routine. The last one came in 1997 when Sloan and Hunter still needed their parents to dress them.
What a way to conclude their first home meet since helping the Gators win the program’s first national title last April in Los Angeles.
“I’ve never seen it,’’ Faehn said of back-to-back 10s. “I remember the feeling of getting it. The first thing I did was look to the crowd. Gymnasts love to perform and to do that for everyone in the stands.
“I felt that tonight when Bridget and Kytra did it. I’m so thrilled that they were able to do that tonight and they will always have that memory of what it felt like to be perfect for that one moment.”
Trailing in the running score through three rotations, the Gators saved their best for last in Friday’s 198.050-196.700 victory over the Bulldogs.
Junior Rachel Spicer, competing on the floor this season for the first time since her freshman year, got the party started when she hit a career-best 9.975 during her floor routine after Claire Boyce and Mackenzie Caquatto opened Florida’s turn on floor with strong scores.
Faehn called Spicer’s floor routine the best she had ever seen from blond Texan. Not even close.
“Everyone just caught on fire from there,’’ Faehn said.
Sloan followed Spicer, and Hunter followed Sloan, and then Bridgette Caquatto capped the night with a 9.950 to give Florida a school-record 49.875 team score.
The Gators showed their moxie as a team, but this night belonged to Sloan and Hunter.
Long before the two elite gymnasts signed with the Gators, each enjoyed significant success on the international level. Sloan was the 2009 World Champion and youngest member of the 2008 Olympic Team that competed in Beijing. Hunter was a member of the U.S. National Team and finished fourth at the 2010 Visa Championships.
Hunter arrived at UF first and won the NCAA all-around and vault national titles as a freshman in 2012. Sloan joined the program last year and won the NCAA all-around and balance beam national titles.
They now form the most dynamic due on college gymnastics.
“Kytra and I have always worked well together,’’ Sloan said. “We feed off each other.”
They are the Gators’ yin and yang. Sloan the extrovert never at a loss for words. Hunter the more reserved, a fearless competitor that seemingly stalks her events.
“I knew if she could show it off, I could show it off,’’ Hunter said.
Both had trouble grasping the significance of their rare back-to-back 10s in the immediate aftermath late Friday night. For now, they need more time.
They will have a reminder soon enough. A large graphic on the wall of the Gators’ gymnastics studio displays all the perfect 10s in school history.
Faehn didn’t need time to grasp what Friday night meant.
“We get to change those graphics,” she said.