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Record Crowd Watches UK Defeat Arkansas at Excite Night

Alex Hyland bounced back from a fall on the beam to record a 9.90 on the Floor Exercise.

Friday night, the University of Kentucky Gymnastics team hosted the University of Arkansas in Rupp Arena for the team’s annual Excite Night. After coming off one of the more disappointing meets in quite some time and watching their ranking drop from #7 to #16, the Cats were primed to show the #14 Razorbacks they were the superior team.

It didn’t take long for Kentucky to throw down the gauntlet, scoring an impressive 49.175 on their opening rotation on the Vault. UK was led by Mollie Korth with a 9.9, followed by Alex Hyland and Katie Stuart, each with a 9.850. Meanwhile, Arkansas struggled on the Uneven Bars with 2 of their gymnasts falling. This meant the Razorbacks had to count a 9.075, a score one would normally get to throw out. They ended the first rotation with 47.90, 1.175 points behind UK.

The teams switched apparatuses, theoretically giving the Razorbacks the opportunity to cut into UK’s lead. But Kentucky gave Arkansas no breaks and all 6 Cats scored at least 9.775, while the Hogs only had 1 score over 9.775 on the Vault and UK’s lead increased to 1.525 points (98.125 – 96.6).

On a night that featured Walker Montgomery performing the national anthem and an appearance by DeVore Ledridge from Disney’s Channel’s Bizaardvark, it seemed the Cats were infallible and would steamroll Coach Mark Cook’s Razorbacks. Inspired by a record crowd of 12,472, Kentucky surely felt the electricity in the arena, but anyone who follows gymnastics at all knows the balance beam can be the great equalizer. Kentucky would be on that apparatus for the 3rd rotation while Arkansas would be performing the Floor Exercise.

Mollie Korth spoke with reporters after winning the All-Around title at Excite Night.

And the Balance Beam is indeed where the Cats met their first disaster of the night when Josie Angeny fell from the beam and scored 8.850. The Cats could have absorbed the fall a little easier had it not been for Alex Hyland falling as well. Kentucky had to count Hyland’s 9.125 and totalled only 47.775 while Arkansas was rocking the floor exercise, having no scores lower than 9.750 and finishing with 49.050 to cut the Cats’ lead to a mere .250 as they prepared for the final rotation.

Sidney Dukes praised the BBN for showing up in record numbers Friday night. Dukes finished 2nd in the All-Around.

Kentucky maintained their composure however and withstood Arkansas’ best shot. The Hogs had 2 falls on the Balance Beam and that’s all the cushion Coach Tim Garrison’s team needed and they rolled through the floor exercise with Dukes, Hyland, and Korth all scoring 9.90 and bringing the crowd to its feet, the cheers getting progressively louder.

As the final scores were announced, Kentucky had 195.275 to Arkansas’ 193.875. A 1.4 point margin of victory is the definition of a “sound defeat” of the Razorbacks and Kentucky appears to be back on track and will surely begin to climb back up in the rankings.

Mollie Korth won the all-around with a 39.20 edging out Sidney Dukes (39.175) and Katie Stuart (39.10). Arkansas’ leader in the all-around was Jessica Yamzon who finished 4th with a 38.925.

The Cats return to action next Friday as they travel to Gainesville to face Florida at 6pm. That meet will be televised on the SEC Network.

Follow me on Twitter @ForeverBigBlue

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Michele Brown
Michele Brown
Writer at since Feb. 2015 Co-host of Big Blue Views podcast. Mom, Christian, sports junkie, golf addict and speed typist. I can cook your mama's food better than she can.

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