Gymnasts Get Their First Chance to Shine
Kentucky gymnasts have long dominated the medals for Team Kentucky at USA Games events, and with Kentucky bringing five gymnasts — the most in program history — to these Games, this years shapes up to be no exception. Today, “The Fab Five” got their first chance to shine and they did not disappoint, winning three of the state’s five gold medals today, which Jennifer Rhein, Tonya Cornett and Lee Dockins winning gold in the all-around.
Rhein, a Ludlow resident, grabbed a gold medal in her first event of her first ever USA Games appearance. Sh posted a score of 75.70 to hold off Tasenjay Fiegh of North Carolina. It was the highest all-around score of any gymnast at the competition. Tonya Cornett of Lexington also won gold in her first event of her first USA Games. The veteran Special Olympics athlete dominated her division with a final score of 73.10 to win the gold medal by nearly 10 points. Kentucky’s third golden gymnast is no stranger to the USA Games, but the all-around gold was one medal that had escaped Lee Dockins of Russellville. Today the two-time all-around silver medalist would not be denied despite tweaking her knee on Monday. Dockins posted a score of 66.25 to top the podium, finishing two points ahead of silver medalist Kellie O’Donnell of Illinois. Kentucky teammate Danielle Blakeney of Erlanger took the bronze with a score of 62.70. The gymnastics medal haul was rounded out by another USA Games rookie, Aliya White of Lexington. White, the youngest member of Team Kentucky posted a score of 72.1, just 1.6 points out of the gold medal.
Gymnasts weren’t the only ones topping the medal stand today though, bowlers Joseph Jarrell of Olive Hill teamed up to top their division of the doubles event. Jarrell and Williams bowled a combined 637 combined series to take gold by more than 50 pins over Nathan Kemp and Kevin Bass of Northern California. Nathan Golden and Samuel Seifarth of Tennessee took bronze. It was the first medal of the Games for Jarrell and WIlliams who placed fourth and fifth, respectively, in their divisions of the singles competition yesterday. Michelle Barnes of Carrollton and Kelly Kunisch of E-town, who both won gold in the singles event yesterday, teamed today in the doubles event. The pair bowled a combined 571 series – better than their combined scores of yesterday – to claim the bronze medal in a very competitive division. Barnes and Kunisch were just 14 pins behind gold medalists McKenna White and Heather Miller of Colorado and just 11 behind silver medalists Karen Hendricks and Julia Whitesides of North Carolina.
Sprinter Joseph Ramirez of Murray was the fifth Team Kentucky athlete to capture gold today and the first to win multiple gold medals at these Games. As he did in yesterday’s 100 meter run, Ramirez dominated his heat of the 200 meters, finishing in :27.0. He finished just over two seconds ahead of silver medalist Stephen Power of Wisconsin. Zachary Stenson of Montana took the bronze. Ramirez also became the first Team Kentucky athlete to complete his competition, finishing his Games events out with a seventh place finish in the shot put.
Track athletes claimed a pair of silver medals today as well, as Louisville runners Kate Nason and Caitlin Roy bookended today’s track events with silver medal performances. In one of the first events of the day, Nason finished the 3000-meter run in in 19:36.87, finishing about 30 seconds behind gold medalist Stephanie Price of Arkansas. In the last race of the day, Roy finished the 100-meters in a solid :15.90 and was closing at the end of the race, but it wasn’t enough to catch gold medalist Rebecca St. Remy of Florida, who ran the fastest 100-meters at the Games. Roy’s time was the second fastest overall.
Bocce athlete Cindy Cusick was the winner of Kentucky’s final medal of the day, taking silver in her division of the singles competition. Cusick rolled into the gold medal match against Ashton Graham of Mississippi, but couldn’t keep the momentum going. Graham stayed close the target all match long and made it difficult for Cusick find space. Cusick eventually fell 8-4 to claim the silver. Two other Kentucky bocce athletes placed fourth in their divisions. Kathleen Crumbo of Louisville fell in her bronze medal match, losing 10-6 to Ashley Kennedy of Michigan. Brett Thompson of Rockport fell 12-5 to Marshall Olivier of Louisiana.
Cusick and Crumbo went on later in the afternoon to team up for a win in their first match of the doubles competition.
The biggest non-medal news of the day came at the golf course where Unified partner Dennis Gaines of Lexington carded a hole in one on the 115-yard, par 3 seventh hole at Eagle’s Talon Golf Course. Gaines hit a gap wedge that took one bounce and then rolled in. Gaines and athlete Wake Mullins shot an 87 in the day’s second round to bring their two-day total to 173. They sit in third place in their division headed into the final round. Jude Zilliox of Alexandria fired a 66 in the second round of the 9-hole individual stroke play event for a two-day total of 120. He sits in second headed into tomorrow’s final round.
In other non-medal events, the Team Kentucky flag football and basketball teams both cruised to two more easy victories.
Flag football beat Tennessee for the second time in as many days, this time knocking off the Volunteer State squad 36-6. They closed out pool play with a 38-6 win over Texas.
The basketball team had the honor of playing twice today in historic Alaska Airlines Arena (formerly Hec Edmundson Pavilion), the home of the Washington Huskies. They made the most of the experience. Kentucky knocked off Oregon 34-13 behind nine points from Ray Smith and six more from Walt Drake. They followed that up with a 41-15 win over Northern California.
Finally, Kentucky swimmers Hunter Eudy of Independence, Justin Hale and Cassie Wright of Louisville and Megan McCormick of Lexington swam a preliminary heat of the 4×50-meter medley relay. The squad finished the race in 3:22.20, improving their best ever time by eight seconds.
Tomorrow at the USA Games
At track Ryan Barts of Georgetown will have two chances to add to the gold medal he won in the 100-meters on Monday. He competes in the long jump and the 400-meter run. Caitlin Roy will have her best shot at a gold medal, when she runs the 200-meter dash, her best race.
All five Kentucky gymnasts will begin the individual apparatus competition with the floor exercise and balance beam.
Unified golf team Wake Mullins and Dennis Gaines and individual player Jude Zilliox will play the final round of their events.
In bocce, Cusick and Crumbo will continue their quest for a medal in the doubles division, and Brett Thomson will join his dad Jeffrey for the Unified competition.
Basketball and flag football both begin the medal rounds of their tournaments. Flag football gets underway at 9 am with a game against Iowa.
Finally, swimmers Hale and Eudy will have chances to earn medals. Both will swim the 100-meter freestyle.