The story of the 2022 Kentucky gymnastics season so far has been Raena Worley. The junior from Christiansburg won SEC Gymnast of the Week three consecutive weeks to start the season.
As a result, the Wildcats are also off to a solid start as a team. UK has beaten nationally ranked Missouri and Ball State with their only loss so far at No.-10 Alabama.
Head coach Tim Garrison has the luxury of being able to turn to a number of gymnasts to fill particular roles on this year’s squad. In the past, UK might have two or three gymnasts competing in the all-around (all four events). This year, only Worley is doing so, and that allows competitors to focus on those events that they do best where they can best help the team.
“That’s unusual for us,” Garrison said. “Normally, our formula is three or four all-arounders. But we have a number of people doing two and three events.”
One of those who played a key role Friday night as the Cats beat Georgia, Illinois, and Central Michigan was sophomore Bailey Bunn. She scored a 9.825 on bars, a 9.900 on beam, and a 9.850 on floor.
“I see my role as super important right now, whether that’s cheering the loudest or being in there and scoring as high as I can,” Bunn said. “Honestly, I just want to be there for my team in every way that I can. I try to be the loudest and the most positive, no matter how I’m doing that day.”
As she continues to rehab from an early-season injury, Bunn is just about ready to return to the all-around. She and Garrison continue to have those discussions.
“We have had a few conversations about me being back in the all-around,” Bunn said. “I’ve been working super hard. I did have an injury at the beginning of the season and I pulled myself out. But now, I’m totally ready to go.”
Garrison knows that having depth on multiple events makes the team that competes even better.
“Competition within the gym is strong,” Garrison said. “We need eight ready on each event. Right now, we have that eight. There’s competition in the gym to earn the spot and there’s competition in warm ups to keep the spot. It pushes everybody and makes everybody better.”
And the hard work that the team has put in during the preseason and as the season has gotten underway is paying off for the Cats.
“The validation of two 197.400-pluses in a row is what this team needed,” Garrison said. “To be able to put it together twice in a row validates everything we’ve done in the preseason.”
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