UK punches ticket to 2023 NCAA National Championships
NORMAN, Okla. - No. 9 Kentucky gymnastics punched its ticket to the 2023 NCAA National Championships, advancing out of the Norman, Okla. Regional on Saturday evening.
The 197.850 scored by the Cats did the trick to send the program to its second ever nationals appearance after first seeing the big stage in 2018. Kentucky finished sixth overall that year.
Kentucky's overall meet score Saturday was the second highest in program history and highest ever in regional competition. In addition to the overall meet score, the Cats set a new record on the balance beam with 49.575. UK found top-10 marks in every apparatus except the floor exercise.
Beginning the Road to Nationals on the balance beam, the Wildcats stayed calm and collected. The program record break was no easy feat as the fight began. Senior Raena Worley held the top score for UK on the event with a 9.950. Her near-perfect tally tied her for second for the meet overall. Juniors Bailey Bunn and Isabella Magnelli placed in the top-five overall scoring 9.925 each. Bunn's 9.925 tied her personal career and season bests while sophomore Jillian Procasky did the same with her score of 9.900. Rounding out the rotation, Arianna Patterson earned a 9.875 with leadoff Shealyn Luksik scoring a 9.825.
The floor exercise, the second rotation of the night, was Kentucky's weakest event. However, its was still enough to continue the momentum for the Cats as they neared the halfway point of the meet. In a seven-way tie for first place overall, Worley found herself among the top performers with a 9.950. Just shy of her career and season best, the senior delivered as anchor on the event where she has scored a 9.900 or better in every meet this season. Junior Hailey Davis rocked her routine with an electric 9.925 for the fifth time this season. Both Magnelli and Makenzie Wilson tallied 9.850 while Patterson and Procasky each recorded 9.800. With a combined total of 49.375 on the floor exercise, the Cats moved on to the third rotation - vault.
On vault, Kentucky's fight continued as the Cats tied its fourth-best total on the event with a combined 49.450. Patterson stuck a giant front handspring front pike half which earned her a 9.950 from the judges. Her top mark tied her personal career and season bests on vault. The fifth-year senior was preceded by Procasky (9.900) and Wilson (9.850) as the first two athletes in the lineup. Magnelli scored a 9.900 for the second time in the last three meets while Worley tallied a 9.850 and freshman Bridget Bourque scored a 9.825.
To close out the meet, the Wildcats had one more rotation to battle through to determine its fate. Tying its 10th best program score on the uneven bars, the Cats rallied to a 49.450. Procasky and senior Kaitlin DeGuzman led the team earning 9.925 each from the judges. Both gymnasts performed huge routines executing their dismounts with sticky feet. The two Wildcats scored within the top five for the meet overall on the apparatus. Bunn and Worley each were awarded 9.900 to continue the push to nationals for UK. Preceding Worley, the anchor, were Davis (9.800) and Luksik (9.600).
In the all-around, Worley was tied second overall with Oklahoma's Audrey David as the pair held a combined total of 39.650. The Christiansburg, Va. native has tallied a 39.600 or higher six times this season. Fellow all-around competitor Procasky found herself sixth overall with a 39.525 which set a new career record for the gymnast.
Kentucky competed against host No. 1 Oklahoma, Southeastern Conference opponent No. 8 Alabama and Ohio State in Saturday's regional final. The Sooners and Wildcats were the top two teams of the meet, advancing the programs to the national championships. The punched tickets secured a spot in the next round of competition which will be held at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas, April 13-15.