Jan. 9, 2014
PRIMER: EXCITE NIGHT AT THE KENTUCKY CLASSIC
The No. 21 University of Kentucky gymnastics team opens the 2014 season with Excite Night at the Kentucky Classic Friday at 7 p.m. ET in Memorial Coliseum. The Wildcats host No. 15 Penn State, West Virginia and Ball State in the annual event.
Excite Night will be broadcast live on UKathletics.com and live results can be found on UKathletics.com. Updates will also be available on @UKgymnastics. Tickets, which will be available the night of the event, can also be purchased by calling 1-800-928-2287. Followers on Twitter (@UKgymnastics) and Facebook (UKgymnastics) can receive a coupon for four free tickets, which they can redeem at the ticket office by presenting the coupon either on their phone or printed out. With a large walk-up crowd expected, fans are encouraged to arrive as early as possible to get to their seats.
UK is ranked No. 21 in the GymInfo Preseason Coaches Poll, its highest preseason ranking in program history. The Wildcats finished 21st in the national rankings last season and return 14 gymnasts from the 2013 squad that made their ninth consecutive NCAA berth. Kentucky broke the school record meet score with a 196.775 at Penn State and posted the program’s highest-ever NCAA Regional team score of 195.575.
Penn State is ranked 15th in the preseason poll, while both West Virginia and Ball State are receiving votes. Both PSU and WVU made the NCAA Regional in 2013. In the NCAA Morgantown Regional, the Wildcats finished fourth, ahead of the Mountaineers’ fifth-place finish. The Nittany Lions and Cardinals both opened their season last weekend with road wins over Iowa State and Illinois State, respectively.
HEAD COACH Tim Garrison ON EXCITE NIGHT
“It’s the first meet of the year and we’re obviously very excited about the opportunity to get out here and compete. We have been training, going on four months now, so the girls are kind of chomping at the bit to get going. We are definitely prepared and tomorrow we will find out how ready we are.
“I asked the athletes to develop an identity, not only for themselves, but for the fan base. I want them to be excited, even if someone has a slip-up here and there. I want that fan to come back because they saw that athlete and how they reacted after and anticipation for the next time knowing they are going to hit it.”
TICKET AND PARKING INFORMATION
A limited number of gymnastics season tickets are still available for just $15 each. Season tickets are located in reserved seats in Sections C through G, and include Excite Night plus UK’s three additional home meets in 2014. General admission seating is located in all other sections. Reserved tickets for single meets are $5.00 each, regardless of age. General admission tickets are $5.00 for adults, $2.00 for Seniors (65+) and Youth (6-18). Children ages 5 and under are admitted free of charge.
Tickets can be purchased by calling the ticket office at 1-800-928-2287. Tickets are also sold at the Joe Craft Center Ticket Office on the night of the event. Group tickets (20+ people) are available by calling the ticket office in advance of the event.
With a large walk-up crowd expected for Friday’s Excite Night meet, fans are encouraged to arrive early and allow plenty of time to park, purchase tickets and get to their seats.
Parking will be available in all E-Lots (Employee Lots) surrounding Memorial Coliseum beginning 3 hours prior to the start of the meet. Additional parking will be available in Parking Structure #5 (adjacent to Kennedy’s Bookstore), which is a 5-10 minute walk or a short shuttle ride over to the Coliseum. The PS#5 shuttle picks up/drops off on Administration Drive, at the end of the pedestrian sky bridge accessed from the 3rd floor of the parking garage. The shuttle will be available beginning at 5:30pm and will end 1 hour post-meet.
Handicap parking is available in the E-Lot (Employee Lot) north of the Joe Craft Center, adjacent to the metered spaces, with a valid, state-issued handicap tag. These spaces are available on a first-come, first-serve basis until full. Please note that parking is prohibited in any R-Lot (Residential Lot). Vehicles parking in R-Lots without a proper permit, along yellow curbs, grass spaces or other non-specified and unapproved areas may be subject to ticket and/or tow.
2014 SCHEDULE NOTHING TO LAUGH AT
With 10 top-25 teams on Kentucky’s 2014 slate including four of the top five in the preseason coaches poll, the Wildcats face one of the most grueling schedules in the nation. Among top-25 teams, CollegeGymFans.com has tabbed UK’s schedule as the toughest in the country, while RoadtoNationals.com the Blue and White’s schedule as the second-best strength of schedule among all NCAA teams. Seven of the SEC’s eight teams enter the season ranked nationally, with the eighth, Missouri, receiving votes.
HIGHEST PRESEASON RANKING
The Wildcats earned their highest preseason ranking in team history at 21st. In the GymInfo Preseason Coaches Poll, UK is one of seven SEC teams ranked nationally, led by top-ranked and defending national champion Florida and No. 2 Alabama. In 2012, head coach Tim Garrison’s first season, the Wildcats were ranked 23rd while they were voted 25th last season.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENTS
Fifteenth-ranked Penn State is coached by 1985 Kentucky alum Jeff Thompson, in his fourth season as head coach. The Nittany Lions are coming off a 193.925-193.550 victory at Iowa State Sunday after finishing fourth at the NCAA Regionals and sixth in the Big Ten in 2013. In the win over the Cyclones, PSU notched wins on vault and floor along with an individual win on vault and a second-place showing from junior Randi Lau in the all-around.
West Virginia is receiving votes in the coaches poll and will open its season at UK. The Mountaineers placed third at the Big 12 Championship and fifth at the NCAA Regional in 2013, just below Kentucky’s fourth-place NCAA finish in Morgantown, W.Va. Jason Butts begins his third season as head coach.
Ball State, receiving votes in the preseason coaches poll, is under the direction of first-year head coach Joanna Saleem. The Cardinals, who finished seventh at the 2013 MAC Championship, opened the season Saturday with a 189.00-188.95 win at Illinois State. BSU tallied wins on vault, beam and floor and claimed an individual title on vault.
UP NEXT: OZONE INVITE
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.
UK returns 14 letterwinners from the record-setting 2013 team and lost just two. Among the returners are seniors Holly Cunningham, Audrey Harrison and Kayla Sienkowski along with redshirt junior Kayla Hartley. Harrison returns after winning a league-leading six all-around titles in SEC competition last year. The Wildcats welcome three freshmen, Alyssa Bertoni, Kirsten Canini and Taylor Puryear to the team in 2014.
SEC’S ALL-AROUND LEADER IS BACK
Senior Audrey Harrison is coming off a record-setting 2013 season. One of the most consistent competitors in the nation last season, the Knoxville, Tenn., native tallied a league-leading six all-around titles in SEC meets and totaled seven in all competitions. Harrison scored a career-high score of 39.425 at Ball State and also won all-around titles against then-No. 13 Auburn, No. 9 Arkansas, No. 6 LSU, No. 6 Georgia and No. 1 Florida.
A LOOK BACK AT A RECORD-SETTING 2013
Kentucky is coming off a record-setting 2013 campaign that saw numerous school records fall. UK earned a ninth-consecutive NCAA Regional bid with a school-record regional qualifying score of 196.06 after breaking the team best score twice. A 196.775 in the regular season finale at Penn State bested the previous high score, set earlier in the season at Ball State.
The Wildcats notched three wins against SEC opponents, the most in program history and earned a 3-3-1 league mark, also a school best. All three wins were against teams ranked in the top 15, with two over top-nine foes. In postseason play, UK tallied the program’s highest-ever NCAA Regional team score of 195.575 and finished fourth at the regional.
WINNING BIG AT THE CATSPY AWARDS
The Kentucky gymnastics team wrapped up a historic 2013 season by claiming the prestigious “Team of the Year Award” at the annual CATSPY Awards along with two individual awards.
Tim Garrison was named Coach of the Year alongside baseball coach Gary Henderson and rifle coach Harry Mullins, while sophomore Shannon Mitchell picked up the Scratch Award, given to the top non-scholarship student-athlete.
The 11th-annual CATSPYs recognized UK’s athletic and academic performance during the year. A spin-off of the popular ESPY Awards held each year by ESPN, the CATSPYS feature 24 individual and team honors, chosen from UK’s 22 varsity sports.
Across all sports the Southeastern Conference is one of the toughest in the country, and gymnastics is certainly no exception. With seven of the SEC’s eight teams ranked in the top 25, including four in the top five, the league is primed for another season of elite competition.
SEC schools have won eight of the last nine NCAA Championships, including the last three, but the league’s dominance is nothing new. Seventeen national titles have been won by SEC schools since the inaugural NCAA Championship in 1982.
Florida captured the program’s first NCAA Championship last season to join Alabama and Georgia. Four SEC teams advanced to the Super Six at last season’s NCAA Championships.
The SEC has placed at least two teams among the top six in 30 of the possible 32 NCAA Championship events. A record five SEC teams advanced to the NCAA Super Six team final in 2009. The SEC also leads all conferences in NCAA individual titles (92).