LEXINGTON, Ky.-- In front of a roaring crowd of 7,738, the Kentucky Wildcats gymnastics program opened the 2016 season on a high note, earning its first win of the season, 194.825 – 191.650, against the Ball State Cardinals on Friday night, Jan. 8, in Memorial Coliseum.
The team earned the victory with scoring contributions from all four classes. Freshman Sidney Dukes (pictured, left) stood out, earning her first collegiate all-around title with a 39.125 performance, edging out classmates Alex Hyland (39.025) and Katie Stuart (38.325) for the crown. “Winning the all-around title was really exciting,” Dukes said. “I just went out there and did what I could for my team. Having them all behind me and supporting me was just the icing on the cake. It’s great to have such a supportive group of girls that can help me through anything.” The Wildcats move to 1-0 on the season following the win, while Ball State moves to 0-1 on the season with the loss. Kentucky opens its Southeastern conference slate in its next meet, when the team heads to Auburn, Alabama to face the Tigers of Auburn. The meet is slated for Friday, Jan. 15, with an 8 p.m. ET start.
“You know, when you’ve got 17 spots where freshmen are competing, you don’t really know what to expect - I was pleasantly surprised,” fifth year head coach Tim Garrison said. “We had a few mistakes, were flat a couple of times, but overall there was just a great energy in the building tonight. BBN showed up in force. Our team did really well, and we’re happy with this being our first meet. It was one of the strongest starts on vault we’ve had to open a season. “On top of what our freshman class provided, our seniors showed their competitiveness in leadoff roles tonight. Marissa [Beucler] led off on vault and bars with solid performances. Amy [Roemmele] had a really strong performance on beam and led us off on floor. Montana [Whittle] led off on beam. That first spot can be very tough, but they showed their experience and helped guide this team to the win tonight.” VAULT The Wildcats benefitted from the new start values on vault, scoring a meet-best rotation 49.000 in the first event. Stuart highlighted the event, scoring a consensus 9.850 on a yurchenko layout full. Dukes earned a 9.850 as well, with Hyland adding a 9.800 for the Cats. Freshmen classmates Aubree Rosa and Danaea Davis scored 9.750, while Beucler added a 9.700 vault. Stuart on her vault routine: “It was great having my teammates and the crowd cheering me on. It was very exciting and a great way to start off the meet. I love starting on vault, and it was just a really good time. I love going out there and giving it my all.” UNEVEN BARS Dukes led the way for the Wildcats, as the team earned a 48.750 team score on the bars following her meet-best 9.825. Dukes earned the score after catching her tkackev before sticking the double layout. Stuart and sophomore Cori Rechenmacher both added scores of 9.750 to help out the Wildcats. Hyland finished bars with a 9.725, while Beucler and the team’s newest freshman Katrina Coca both earned 9.700 scores. Dukes on her bar routine: “It’s funny – I love being on bars, but sometimes it’s not the most natural event that I swing. But, with Tim’s help and the team’s help I feel way more confident and I’m more relaxed when I’m out there, so it makes it easier for me to do what I do.” BALANCE BEAM The balance beam started off with senior classmates Whittle and Roemmele posting solid scores, earning consensus 9.750 and 9.850 respectively. Stuart (9.000) and Rosa (8.975) both faced setbacks, with each suffering their first fall of the season. Dukes helped to right the ship, scoring a 9.700, before Hyland putting together an impressive routine, connecting on a front aerial back handspring and sticking the landing. Hyland scored a meet-best 9.875, leading UK to a 48.175 team score. Hyland on her beam routine: “I was happy with my and the team’s performance on beam tonight. I think we build off of each other really well, and we were able to come back after a couple of stumbles. I’m really happy with how we did, we just need a bit more confidence - which we have - we just need to trust ourselves moving forward.” FLOOR EXERCISE The floor exercise rivaled the vault for UK’s best performance of the night, as the team came just .100 shy of tying vault for the highest-scoring rotation with a 48.900 team score. Junior Taylor Puryear picked up where she left off last season, scoring a meet-high 9.875 in her routine. Roemmele came in just behind Puryear with a 9.800, while Dukes and Stuart added 9.750 scores. Stuart (9.725) and Hyland (9.625) rounded out the Wildcat rotation. Puryear on her floor routine: “Floor is definitely my favorite event. I love the energy – I feed off it. It just keeps me pumped throughout. I think we were all ready tonight. Of course there’s going to be a few mistakes - but when we had mistakes the next person picked it back up. We just need to keep getting more practice under our belt and we’ll be ready to go.”
Photos by UK Athletics