By Rachel Sarnovsky
UK gymnastics, known around campus as the Gymkats, began its new season on Jan. 8 with a big opening night.
The Gymkats won their season opener against Illinois and Northern Illinois with a team score of 194.350. After the first meet, the team was ranked No. 2 in the nation on floor exercise, and seniors Andrea Mitchell and Jasmine Minion were nationally ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in that event.
“Floor’s been great, definitely helps my confidence,” Mitchell said. “I used to be really nervous on floor, and it’s just getting better each week assuring that I can hit a good routine. Everybody’s doing good on floor and we just have to remember to have fun and enjoy life while we’re out there.”
The Gymkats have had solid results on vault, uneven bars and floor so far this year. They are now focusing their efforts on an improved team performance on the balance beam.
“Beam has always been a struggle for us at Kentucky and my main goal is figuring out why that is and how we can fix it,” assistant coach Heather Hite said. “I think that we made a lot of steps toward fixing it as far as if we are falling, we’re still getting good scores.”
Hite said the beam team has doubts from previous years, but should continue to strive for great results in the future.
“Now it’s just a matter of getting the girls to stay on the beam, and that’s a mindset,” Hite said. “That has to come from within them. They’ve done plenty of beam routines and plenty of workouts to where they are successful inside the gym and now they just need to transfer that into their competitions.”
Mitchell acknowledged the impact of having two new faces in the floor team lineup. Kayla Sienkowski and Audrey Harrison have stepped up into the lineup for UK, and Mitchell said both are improving each week.
Another freshman, Paige Krall, is stepping up for the Gymkats on balance beam.
“Coming in as a freshman, compared to club (gymnastics), it’s been a lot more pressure, and I’ve been working a lot harder,” Krall said. “Starting on beam has been extremely exciting but nerve-racking at the same time.
Junior co-captain Whitney Rose said the team is coming together to build a stronger squad.
“This is probably one of the craziest years to be a team captain just because we have seven new girls, and that’s like half of our team,” Rose said. “We just wanted this year to be more.ust to say that we’re a family, to almost be like sisters and just be there for one another inside and outside of the gym.”
Junior co-captain Storey Morris echoed Rose’s sentiments.
“It’s been a different year than I’ve expected because I’m a co-captain with Whitney, and it just feels like I’ve had a whole lot more responsibilities this year,” Morris said. “This past week I’ve seen a lot of different freshmen step up.”
The team’s goal this weekend is to compete in all four events with confidence.
“I try to tell them that it’s a new year, it’s a new start, it’s a new team. But at the same time you’re always going to have a little bit of those doubts, and those fears still in your head,” Hite said. “So I think that’s what we’re working on now. We’re not really working on the physical aspect of it, but their mental capacity of going out there and being great is what we’re trying to look at now.”