UK gymnastics defeats Arkansas in front of record crowd


Kentucky gymnast Alex Hyland high-fives head coach Tim Garrison after competing on the vault during the Excite Night meet against Arkansas on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019, at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 195.275 to 193.875.

Jake Maynard

No. 16 ranked Kentucky gymnastics toppled the no. 14 ranked Arkansas Razorbacks with a final score of 195.275-193.875 in UK’s annual Excite Night. This year’s Excite Night lived up to its name– the event drew in a record attendance of 12,472 people.  

Sydney Dukes expected a big night from the fans. “Blue always gets in,” she said, “That’s why it’s called Excite Night, because everyone’s excited and we love the energy in here. It was a lot of fun.”

Coach Tim Garrison described the environment as “amazing.”

“It was electric…What a great showing support from the BBN.” Garrison attributed the night’s environment to the city of Lexington. “There is an appetite for gymnastics in this town and it’s obvious after tonight,” Garrison said.

Mollie Korth appreciated the support as much as her coach, saying, “They come out and they support us every year… they’re just great fans. It’s so much fun getting out on the floor and showing them what we’ve been practicing in the offseason all year long,” Korth said. “It’s the best feeling in the world, honestly.”

Kentucky started the night off strong with solid scores on the vault. Korth led the Wildcats in this event with a score of 9.900, while both Alex Hyland and Katie Stuart scored 9.850 for the Cats. Kentucky ended with a score of 49.175, the second-best event score of the night.

While Kentucky was scoring well in the vault, Arkansas had trouble with the bars. Both Sydney Laird and Kennedy Hambrick fell off the bars for the Razorbacks, resulting in a score of 47.900. This was the lowest score of any event.

Kentucky then went on to score higher on the bars than Arkansas did on the vault, a feat not often seen in gymnastics. Stuart, Cally Nixon and Korth all scored 9.800 on the bars for UK.  

“That’s usually how meets work,” Dukes said about Arkansas’ trouble. “There’s always something that can go wrong, and you just cross your fingers and hope your training shows through your competition.”

After the first two events, Kentucky had earned a commanding 98.125-96.600 lead.

The beam proved to be the weakest event of the night for the Cats. Kentucky ended with a score of 47.775 for the event, the worst total of any event by either team. Both Josie Angeny and Hyland fell off the beam completely while the other four Wildcats that competed in the event all struggled with their balance.  

Kentucky’s struggles on the beam combined with Arkansas’ good performance on the floor resulted in the score differential being tightened to within only 0.250 points.  

“When they got it within two-and-a-half tenths going into that last rotation, the pressure was on… We had to turn it around and we had to perform,” Garrison said.

The Wildcats did just that, finishing even stronger than they started. Hyland was able to redeem herself after her fall off the beam by being one of three Wildcats to score 9.900 for the event. The other two were Korth and Dukes. UK scored a total of 49.375 on the final event. 

Dukes related the team’s problems with the beam and then impressive floor event to previous events.

“You know, last week we had a couple events where we were a little bit down and everyone was feeling it, and then we were like, ‘Okay, let’s go have fun. Let’s go to our next event and let everything go, and just have a great time, and be a team together,’” Dukes said.  

Korth echoed her teammate’s description of their mindset going into the final event.

“I mean, it’s floor. (With) floor, you can let loose and have fun. I think that was definitely our thoughts going into it, let loose and show BBN what you can do, and it will turn out right.”

The Wildcats’ next meet will be Friday, January 25th at Florida at  6:00 and will be televised on the SEC Network.