Seniors Leading UK Gymnastics to New Heights
The Kentucky gymnastics team won’t celebrate Senior Night for another two weeks. But on Friday, the senior class had a night to remember, as the Cats earned just their second victory in program history against perennial power Alabama.
The Cats posted the third-highest score in school history, a 197.200, topping the Tide’s 196.800 on Friday at Memorial Coliseum. And it was the senior class that did much of the work for the Cats in the win.
“When you look at the amount of load they carry in the lineups, when you consider that we have three or four all-arounders from our senior class in every meet, that’s a considerable number,” said UK head coach Tim Garrison. “I think right now, we’re competing 15 routines from seniors. We compete 24 routines, so do the math on that. They’re carrying the load, and they’re doing it at a high, high level.”
Senior Alex Hyland claimed her third all-around title of the season, and the fifth of her career, in Friday’s meet. Hyland posted career highs on the beam (9.900) and floor (9.900) on her way to a 39.525 all-around mark.
“I was really happy with the performance, especially the team as a whole,” Hyland said. “I contributed on my four events and the team did a really good job of feeding off one another and carrying it over to each event. We put all four events together and did what we needed to do.”
Hyland knows that the senior class can lead the younger Cats by showing them how to handle their performances as well as the nerves.
“It’s an awesome feeling being a senior, having people looking up to you,” Hyland said. “Especially when we’ve competed for three years, so we know what we’re doing. We know how to handle the nerves. So, it’s great to rub off on the others. It’s a great position for us to be in.”
Fellow senior Sidney Dukes tied for second in the all-around, with Alabama’s Emily Gaskins, posting a score of 39.400. Dukes set a new career-high on the floor (9.900) and tied her career-high on the vault (9.775).
“I think the senior class, as a whole, has the experience and has the poise,” Dukes said. “We know how to compete in the SEC, we know how to compete at home. We know how to carry ourselves on the team. I think that’s the key in the three 197s that we’ve gotten. Obviously, we have an amazing team and you can’t deny that at all because every score counts.”
Garrison knows why his seniors are able to carry such a heavy burden in each meet.
“They do the right things to keep themselves healthy during the week, inside the gym, outside the gym, extra work with the athletic trainers,” Garrison said. “Not what’s required, they do everything they possibly can to put themselves in position to do what they’re doing on meet nights. It’s impressive and we’re happy for it and very thankful for it. They love this team. They love competing in front of their fans. They’re Wildcats forever.”
The senior class continues to lead the UK gymnastics teams to new heights. And the group hopes that there are bigger things to come as the postseason approaches.