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Excite Night just that for Kentucky in win over Arkansas

Sydney Dukes (Vicky Graff Photo)

LEXINGTON — Kentucky had been on the road for two weeks to open the 2019 gymnastics season. Needless to say, the Wildcats were a little excited to finally compete at home – particularly since they knew they would doing it in front of thousands of cheering fans at Rupp Arena.
 
“When you come back in front of your fans, it’s always a special thing,” head coach Tim Garrison said. “The girls were excited all week.
 
The Cats parlayed their excitement in their homecoming into a win. On Excite Night, No. 16 UK took down No. 14 Arkansas in a meet that doubled as its season and home opener by posting a winning score of 195.275 in front a record crowd of 12,472.
 
“They’re great fans,” said Mollie Korth, who won the individual all-around title with a score of 39.2. “It’s so much fun getting out on the floor and showing them what we’ve been practicing all preseason, all year long. It’s the best feeling in the world, honestly.”
 
It was a party-like atmosphere all night in Rupp, but the Cats had business to tend to as well. They got out to a big lead with solid rotations on vault and beam, but Arkansas closed to within a quarter of a point as UK moved to floor after a couple falls on beam.
 
“It was just a hiccup,” Garrison said. “Simple as that. We needed a big floor rotation. They got it back within two-and-a-half tenths going into floor and they’re a solid beam team as well. So we needed to have a big showing over here and we struggled on floor last meet in Illinois.”
 
There would be no struggle Friday night.
 
Katie Stuart got UK started with a 9.8 and the Cats didn’t look back from there. Ella Warren posted a 9.875 and Alex Hyland, Sidney Dukes and Korth followed with 9.9s. That all added up to the 10th-best floor score in school history.
 
“It’s floor,” Korth said. “Floor you can let loose, have fun. I think that was definitely our thoughts going into it. Let loose, show BBN what you can do and it’ll turn out right.”
 
Garrison has to like the fact that the Cats had that mentality heading into floor considering the pressure they faced is the same kind that will come when it really counts.
 
“Really, in our culminating meets – when we get to SECs, when we get to the regional meet and super regional meet – you have to beat the team on the floor,” Garrison said. “It’s not so much about score. It’s about coming out with a win. When they got it within two-and-a-half tenths going into that last rotation, the pressure was on, especially as strong as Arkansas is on beam. And they are a good beam team.
 
“We needed to perform over here and that was our lowest-scoring event at the Illinois meet last week. We had to turn it around and we had to perform. Absolutely critical for them to do what they did.”
 
That sent the record crowd home happy. The second year of Excite Night in Rupp was a success.
 
“It was amazing,” Garrison said. “It was electric. We had it in here last year. That environment was unreal and tonight felt like it had even more energy in the crowd. What a great showing support from the BBN. We are blessed. We are truly blessed to be here. Let me tell you what: There is an appetite for gymnastics in this town and it’s obvious after tonight.”

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