The No. 9 Kentucky gymnastics team rewarded a sold-out crowd with a record score for the second weekend in a row as the Cats posted a 197.100 in a dominating Excite Night win over No. 11 Auburn Friday in Memorial Coliseum.
Freshman Mollie Korth took all-around honors with a combined score of 49.450 as Kentucky gymnasts won all four individual events. Last week Kentucky set its previous high team mark of 196.950 in a road loss to No. 3 Florida.
Last week was sweet. This week was sweeter. Auburn scored a 195.800.
“To be able to come home and to be able to do it in front of a great crowd like we had tonight, it was just a special night,” Coach Tim Garrison said.
Sophomore Danaea Davis, a late lineup change to lead off on vault, got the Cats rolling early by sticking her twisting double back for a 9.850.
“We’ve got those four all-arounders and they’re amazing, but it takes a full team,” Garrison said. “And that’s what we had tonight.”
Auburn didn’t field any all-around competitors, yielding those honors one through four to Korth, Sidney Dukes, Katie Stuart and Alex Hyland, respectively.
Some uncertainty crept in on the second rotation, however, as one of the sophomore standouts, Hyland, one of two gymnasts to qualify for the NCAAs last year, slipped off the uneven parallel bars. The bottom score of every event is dropped, but the miss eliminated the margin of error for Korth in the anchor spot.
“I put a lot of pressure on her,” Garrison said, “but you know what, somewhere down the line she’s going to have to be able to handle that pressure. And she absolutely did (tonight).”
Korth paced the bars after Hyland’s spill, but gathered herself and hit a 9.875 on the bars, tied for first with Stuart.
“I was breathing really heavily, but I knew that Tim put me in this anchor spot for a reason,” Korth said. “I knew I could hit, and I knew I could do well.”
The Cats pretty well ended the suspense of who would win the team competition on beam as sophomore All-American Dukes hit what felt like the best routine of her career for a 9.950. She fought the landing a little bit with a balance check but held the stick.
“Nationals last year, that routine felt that good,” Dukes said. “They didn’t give me that score, but it felt just as solid as that.”
Of the landing, she said. “It takes a lot of toe strength. That sounds kind of funny. And it takes a lot of grit and fight, which what we’ve been working on all preseason, and it really showed.”
As the host team, the Cats got to finish the meet on the crowd-pleasing, musically choreographed floor routine. And each Cat in the rotation seemed to outdo the other with no score lower than 9.80 and four scores above a 9.90, including Korth, Dukes, Stuart and Hyland.
“To be able to come over and finish up on floor the way we did, especially in front of this crowd? They just one, right after the next, stepped up and performed, if possible, better than the one before that,” Garrison said. “Just a fun night.”
LSU at Kentucky
7 p.m. Friday