UK gymnastics ready for first national semifinal


The Kentucky Gymnastics team huddles up after winning the final home meet of the season against Ohio State on Friday, March 2, 2018 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Mohammad Ahmad

Before the start of this season, the UK gymnastics team had never gone farther than the NCAA Regionals. Now, the team finds itself in its first-ever national championship appearance.

After ranking 10th in the National Preseason Coaches’ Poll, the Cats followed that up with a 7-4 season and, as of April 2, are ranked No. 8 in the nation. 

They made it to the big stage after placing fourth at the SEC Championships and second at the NCAA Minneapolis Regional. That marked Kentucky’s 14th straight NCAA Regional appearance.

Kentucky head coach Tim Garrison, the Central Region Head Coach of the Year, knows what this means for his team. 

“It means a great deal. We set a lot of goals coming into the season and going to nationals was definitely a part of it,” Garrison said.

Garrison’s team is led by a trio of aces: Sidney Dukes, Alex Hyland and Mollie Korth.

Dukes won a share of the floor title at the SEC Championships with a 9.9. Hyland’s 39.550 in the all-around ranked second at regionals. Korth is Kentucky’s only All-American this year, earning second team honors in the all-around and vault.

In the second semifinal round of the championship, Kentucky will be matched up against No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 4 Florida, No. 5 Utah, No. 9 California and No. 11 Washington. Out of those six teams, the three highest scoring teams will advance to the Super Six on Saturday.

Oklahoma comes into the championship as the favorite. The Sooners have won the last two national titles and three of the last four overall. In the regional round, Oklahoma was the only team that had a higher score than UK, edging out the Cats by 1.32 points.

UK competed against Florida on Jan. 19, losing to the Gators 196.325-195.950. Kentucky doesn’t fare well against Florida historically: The Cats are 1-83 all-time against the Gators. The Gators won their seventh straight regional title this year.

Washington, Utah and California have a combined 57 championship appearances. Utah is the only team to appear in all 37 NCAA National Championships.

Kentucky’s semifinal round will begin at 7 p.m. at Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis, Missouri. The competition can be watched on ESPNU.