Gymnastics poised for big season with No. 23 preseason rank



After finishing last season with a No. 25 ranking, the UK gymnastics team had a reason to be optimistic.

As a young team with plenty of underclassmen production, the anticipation for the 2012 season is high. But first-year coach Tim Garrison isn’t quick to focus on the accolades.

“This was a good team last year and we are excited about the ranking,” Garrison said. “But, our focus is internal. We just want to get better and better as the year goes on.”

The Cats enter the spring ranked No. 23 in the preseason coaches poll, their second-highest ranking to start the year since 1998. They’re led by seniors Storey Morris and Whitney Rose, who have 21 career individual event titles between them.

“We have a young team with only four upperclassmen,” Rose said. “I think it’s really helpful for the young girls to have somebody to go to for everything. Storey (Morris) and I have used some of our experiences to make their transition easier.”

UK begins its season on Jan. 7 in Memorial Coliseum when it hosts the Excite Night at the Kentucky Classic. It will be a four-team event, with Bowling Green State (Ohio), Wisconsin-Oshkosh, and defending national finalist Oklahoma also competing. It will be a tough test for the Cats — a chance to prove that their top-25 ranking is legitimate.

“It’s always great to start off on a good note,” Rose said. “We want to prove to ourselves and others that we’re better than our preseason raking. That’s definitely a huge goal for us.”

Said Garrison, “We just need to find out who this team is. We need to be able to do our skills consistently and build on that throughout the season. The ranking is great, but it’s going to take a little more time to get to where we need to be.”