About the Gym’Backs The University of Arkansas gymnastics team begins its third season of competition in 2005. A corps of five juniors remain from the inaugural team returning to lead a talented squad of underclassmen this year.
About the Gala This year’s Gala is a bit different from the first two that Arkansas hosted. The Gym’Back fans are up to speed on gymnastics so this season’s event is more of a Red-White meet. The Gala will invite two fans for each rotation to come down to the floor and “score” the routines by holding up pre-printed scorecards. Two young Gym’Back fans will also be selected to escort each team to the next apparatis. Unofficial scores will be announced and tallied at the end of the meet.
Got Tickets? Tickets for the Gala are $2 for adults and $1 for youth and students with a University ID. Arkansas is teamming up with the Northwest Arkansas Humane Society and fans bringing a food item for a dog or cat will get in free.
Season Tickets Season tickets for the 2005 season are currently on sale at the Lady Razorback Ticket Office or on-line at www.ladybacks.com. All season tickets are reserved. Adult tickets are $40 while students and children at $15 for the season. Single meet tickets are $8 for adults, $4 for youth under 18 and $2 for UA students with an ID. For more information call the Lady Razorback Ticket Office at 57-LBACK.
2004 — A Season To Remember The 2004 gymnastics season was certainly one for the record books. In just the second season of gymnastics at Arkansas, the Gym’Backs rewrote nearly every inaugural-season best, improved their overall and Southeastern Conference records, reached the NCAA Regionals and finished the year with the highest ranking in program history. In addition, the academic success continued with the Gym’Backs ranked 10th nationally for their classroom performances and the individual honors and awards were numerous. Not a bad sophomore season.
Gym’Backs Go Farther The Gym’Backs found themselves ranked in the top 20 for much of the season resulting in the team’s first-ever invitation to the NCAA Regional meet. Arkansas was sent to the South Central Regional hosted by Arizona where they finished fourth overall just out of championship contention. The Regional meet (see box on page 25) was just one of the schedule’s many highlights last year. Arkansas opened the year with three wins hosting the team’s first-ever quad meet defeating No. 22 Minnesota, West Virginia and Illinois-Chicago. Arkansas next jumped right into Southeastern Conference action with a win over No. 23 Kentucky in Barnhill Arena followed by a first-ever victory over No. 29 Auburn giving the program two league wins in just its second season. The Gym’Backs continued to better their scores with a first-ever trip to No. 2 Georgia followed by a near-miss against No. 14 Louisiana State at home. Arkansas also added trips to No. 10 Missouri, No. 5 Florida and No. 3 Alabama to the first-time column. The Gym’Backs hosted their second quad of the year dominating the competition in a record-setting win scoring 196.625 points. The quad success carried over to an away meet at No. 11 Arizona that served as a precursor to the NCAA Regional meet just a few weeks later.
Records Tumble Arkansas opened the season with a record-setting meet at the Arkansas Quad. The Gym’Backs scored a then-program best 195. 575 and notched three wins right out of the gate. Dana McQuillin added to Arkansas’ success winning the Gym’Backs’ first all-around title. Success continued throughout the season culminating with a program-best 196.625. That score was one of nine scores (in 12 meets) that bettered the previous seasons’ best mark and was the fifth score above 196 for the Gym’Backs. In addition to the all-around best at the Gym’Back Invitational, Arkansas recorded a program-best 49.075 on the vault at No. 10 Missouri, a 49.375 on bars at NCAA Regionals, a 49.375 on beam at No. 11 Arizona and a 49.525 on floor at the Invitational. The individual records also tumbled as team marks improved. Freshman Kathy Thompson broke the school record twice with a 9.90 on vault (once at No. 10 Missouri and again at NCAA Regionals) and the Gym’Backs set nine of the program’s best vault scores last year. Uneven bar numbers were equally as impressive with sophomore Melissa Leigh tying her own record with a 9.925 at Regionals for the top score last season. Leigh, who became the Gym’Backs’ first all-SEC gymnast, holds the top two marks as well as five of the top eight scores in the program’s history. Nine of the top 10 bar scores in school history were set last year. Sophomore Katie Hardman dominated the beam for the Gym’Backs, setting then breaking her own school record several times in 2004. Hardman finished the year with a 9.950 at No. 11 Arizona and bettered the 9.90 mark three times. She holds three of the top four marks and the Gym’Backs recorded the top nine scores in school history all last year. The floor also saw better scores in 2004 with Rachel Barnett recording a school-record 9.950 twice last year (versus No. 29 Auburn and No. 14 LSU). The top five marks in school history all came in 2004. McQuillin not only won Arkansas’ first all-around title in the first meet of the year, but she added three more AA titles and holds seven of the top nine scores for the Gym’Backs All-around numbers from the inaugural season were all but erased from the top 15 last year with 13 new entries and only two marks from 2003 remaining on the books.
Honors and Awards The Gym’Back honors and awards were numerous last year. In addition to the four all-around titles won by McQuillin, the sophomore also laid claim to a bar title, two beam victories and a floor crown. McQuillin became Arkansas’ first SEC Gymnast of the Week earning the honor the opening week of the season. She went on to capture the team’s most outstanding gymnast and coaches award at the post-season banquet. Audra Loveless, Cassie Drew and Leigh were also honored at the team banquet earning the most improved honor while Valerie Conroy captured the scholastic award. Leigh also added a first to the Arkansas record books becoming the first Gym’Back to earn all-SEC honors with a third-place finish at the conference championship. Leigh won a pair of bar titles last year as well. Sophomore Audra Loveless was also honored by the SEC with her selection to the 2004 Gymnastics Good Works team. Arkansas had several individual winners as well. In addition to McQuillin’s four all-around titles, freshman Cassie Drew also captured top honors at No. 10 Missouri last year. Thompson won a pair of vault titles with McQuillin and Loveless each earning one as well. Leigh brought home two bar titles and McQuillin added one. In addition, McQuillin (two) and Hardman (three) dominated the beam for Arkansas each winning individual titles last year. Rachel Barnett (two), Thompson (two), McQuillin and Drew were all floor champs last season. University of Arkansas Women’s Athletics Director Bev Lewis also earned recognition unique to gymnastics. Lewis was announced as the South Central Region Administrator of the Year at the regional meet in Arizona.
In the Classroom Arkansas continued its success out of the gym as well finishing the year ranked 10th in the nation and first in the SEC according to the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches for Women.Arkansas posted a 3.48 team grade point average with nine individuals honored. Southern Utah led the nation with a 3.70 GPA. In addition to the team’s overall success, nine individual Gym’Backs earned NACGC/W Academic All-America honors with 3.5 GPAs or better. They were Jamie Burnett, Valerie Conroy, Kim Harris, Brooke Lawrence, Melissa Leigh, Audra Loveless, Hannah McLeod, Dana McQuillin and Kathy ThompsonArkansas ranked 14th in 2003 with a 3.43 GPA also leading the SEC. This year the Gym’Backs are 10th overall and again led the seven-member league.
Gym’Backs Ranked To Start 2005 Season The University of Arkansas gymnastics team finds itself ranked 24th in the preseason coaches poll released in late November. Arkansas, in just its third season of competition, finds itself ranked in the GymInfo Preseason Top 25 for the first time in the program’s history. The Gym’Backs finished the inaugural season ranked 30th and the team was 20th last year after its first NCAA Regional appearance. (See complete poll on page 3).
Injury Update You’ll notice that not everyone on Arkansas’ 13-member roster is competing today. Here’s a quick rundown of the injury situation. Sophomore Kathy Thompson will miss the entire 2005 season after tearing her Achilles tendon in the fall. Sophomore Jamie Burnette continues to recover from injury and illness she fought last year and newcomer Mallory Machnik is battling illness.
About The Schedule The Gym’Backs face a tough schedule in 2005 meeting the defending national champion UCLA, runner-up Georgia, third-place finisher Alabama and number five finisher Florida this year. Arkansas opens the year with a trip to Minnesota where the Gophers are receiving votes in the preseason poll after finishing sixth at the North Central Regional last year. Arkansas opens Southeastern Conference action with a trip to Kentucky Jan. 14, followed by a road meet at Auburn Jan. 21. The Tigers finished fourth in the Central Region last year and are 16th in the preseason poll. The Gym’Backs’ first home meet of the year welcomes No. 2 Georgia who won the Northeast Regional and finished second overall. February begins with a trip to No. 8 LSU. The Tigers won the Central Regional fourth in the NCAA second session. The road stand continues with the Gym’Backs traveling to Washington meeting the Huskies, Seattle Pacifice and Oregon State in quad action Feb. 11. Washington was fifth at the North Central Regional last year and is ranked 21st in the preseason poll while Oregon State was third at the West Regional and begins the year ranked 12th overall. The Gym’Backs host No. 6 Florida and No. 4 Alabama on back-to-back weekends, Feb. 18 and 25, respectively. The Gators were second in the South Central Region and finished fifth overall while Bama was second in the West and third overall. A road meet at Denver March 5 opens the month for Arkansas. The Pioneers were third last year at the North Central Regional and are ranked 20th in the preseason poll. The Gym’Backs host No. 22 Missouri who was fifth in the Northeast Regional last year March 13, followed by the final home meet of the year with Arkansas hosting a quad meet with defending national champion UCLA, Oregon State and Nebraska coming to Barnhill. UCLA is again the preseason favorite while Nebraska checks in at the number 10 spot after finishing second at the Southeast Regional in 2004. The season concludes with a trip to the 2005 SEC Championship in Duluth, Ga., March 26, followed by a regional appearance.