Winter Sports Roundup

No one enjoys the winter sports season more than University of Kentucky Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart.

After struggling through another disappointing fall season, Barnhart needed a solid winter season to quiet the naysayers that felt his presence would elevate the non-revenue sports.

The winter sports' coaches got the message.

The Official Sears Cup Standings will not be released until Thursday, but Cat fans should expect a significant rise in the standings. While the rest of the Southeastern Conference sits in the Top 30, the University of Kentucky currently sit alone in 75th place; only being credited for 68 points from two sports (Men's Soccer and Men's Cross Country).

But the rise towards the Top 20 Athletic Programs in the country should start this week, when the first of three different standings are released. The winter sports programs have surprisingly been successful this season for Barnhart and UK.

At the top and carrying the torch of the athletic program for the 100th straight year, should be the Men's Basketball team. Tubby Smith and his Cats will most likely garner the most points this winter season after another spectacular March run. While the Cats have not officially won a tournament game yet, traditionally they perform very well this time of year. A Final Four appearance would be very beneficial for the program at this point and for the Sears Cup Standings.

Indoor Track & Field was not as successful as last year's teams, but the men's and women's teams will most likely garner some points for the individual performances of David Freeman and Beth Heimann, whom each were honored as All-Americans at the Indoor National Championships last weekend.

The same goes for the Men's & Women's Swimming and Diving teams, who will be represented very well at the Championships next weekend by some very talented individual swimmers.

Gymnastics has an outside shot of playing in the postseason, if they can put together a nice showing at the SEC Championships. The GymKats still have not put together a complete performance and are hoping that can come in the next few weeks. If they qualify for post-season play, the Cats will get a much needed boost in the rankings.

Take away Women's Basketball, and the Cats have a chance to have every Winter Sports program participating in the NCAA Championships. That's quite a feat for an athletic program that traditionally relies on the spring to help boost its ranking.

This, in addition to the rise in exposure and excitement in Baseball and Women's Basketball, shows another reason why Mitch Barnhart has the UK Athletic program and its fans headed in the right direction towards the future.

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