Cats capture first SEC win in 2 years

By Patrick Kenkel

The UK gymnastics team kicked off its annual Excite Night on Saturday in winning fashion.

The No. 24 Cats opened the 2008 campaign with a 193.450-191.950 win over No. 19 Auburn in front of 5,448 fans at Memorial Coliseum.

UK led the meet from start to finish, beating or tying Auburn in every individual event. In doing so, the Cats captured their first win over a Southeastern Conference opponent since the 2006 season.

“This year’s team has to be one of the top teams I’ve coached,” said fifth-year head coach Mo Mitchell. “Leadership alone is amazing. The attitude and desire to win is just incredible. They are second to none.”

After a pre-meet show featuring two choreographed tap-dancing acts, the Cats provided the audience with plenty to cheer for. Sophomore Emily Green started the night by setting a personal high score on the vault with a 9.900. Green’s performance on the vault tied her for fifth-place all-time in the event, and she finished the night in second place overall with a score of 39.100.

“As soon as I hit my first vault, I knew it would be a good night for me,” Green said.

Following the vault, the Cats had some difficulty with the uneven parallel bars event. However, UK quickly rebounded with a 48.200 on the balance beam, followed by the entire team averaging over 9.800 on the floor event and cementing the victory over Auburn.

Highly touted freshmen Andrea Mitchell, Madison Snowden, Phylicia Reshard and Colleen Williams all saw action in their first career meet. Mitchell scored a 9.675 on the vault, Snowden achieved a 9.800 on the floor, Reshard notched a 9.650 on the uneven bars, and Williams received a 9.175 for her routine on the uneven parallel bars.

Despite the win, Mitchell wasn’t completely satisfied with the Cats’ outcome.

“We didn’t meet our expectations tonight,” Mitchell said. “Our goal was to score 195 points, but we also wanted to win. So getting one out of two isn’t too bad. I think (uneven) bars is where we had our hiccup, which affected the score we wanted to achieve.”

After the victory, the Cats stuck around to sign posters for the numerous fans, particularly younger gymnasts hoping to one day make the team.

With the win over a conference opponent, the Cats hope to improve this season in the SEC, where they have struggled over the past two years.

“I think we’ll do well and step up at bars and vault,” junior Heather Hite said. “We’ll only do better as the year goes on.”