FAYETTEVILLE - Coming off its third national top 10 finish and looking for a fifth consecutive trip to the NCAA Championship, Arkansas' gymnastics program has added three high-level competitors for next year, including two national top 10 performers, co-head coaches Mark and René Cook announced on Friday.
The newest Razorbacks for 2013 are Heather Elswick from Austin, Texas; Erin Freier from Diamondale, Mich.; and Lily Hardin from Frisco, Texas.
Freier won the Junior Olympic Level 10 bars national title the last two years while Elswick finished eighth in the country on floor.
"We wanted to make sure we fill in the holes we'll have with the girls we lose after this year," René says. We're adding some technique and polish to our gymnastics. This class will definitely keep us on the path to being one of the best teams in the country."
Elswick competed on the club level at Olympic Hills Gymnastics from 2007-10 before going to Capital Gymnastics for 2011. In addition to the eighth-place finish on floor at last year's J.O. national championship, she also tied for 16th in the all-around.
"Heather is very powerful and will bring that aspect to our team," Mark says. "She will bring that along with good technique on all four events, but she's especially strong on vault and floor."
In the 2011 regional meet, she was fourth in the all-around and at the state meet she finished fourth on vault.
During the season, Elswick won floor at the Pikes Peak Cup and the WOGA Classic, and vault at the Alamo Classic. Elswick was also second in the all-around at the Alamo Classic and the Tiger Classic, and second on vault at the WOGA meet. She added a third-place all-around finish at the WOGA meet.
In 2010, she was third on vault in the region meet and second at the Ricky Deci Invitational. At the Rose City Classic, Elswick placed fourth in the all-around.
"Heather will add to our floor and vault lineup," René says. "She's quick and dynamic. She's also strong on bars and beam, but we're specifically impressed with her on vault and floor."
A two-time national champion, Freier trained at Oakland Gymnastics from 2005-09 before switching to Gedderts' Twistars in 2010. She won the national title on bars in 2011 and 2010. Also in 2011, she was eighth on beam and tied Elswick for 16th in the all-around. Freier also won the regional bars title and was fourth in the all-around. At the state meet, she won floor, was third on bars and fourth in the all-around.
"Erin is a very artistic gymnast," René says. "She's very tall. Bars is her strongest event, but she will help a lot on beam and she's a beautiful dancer on floor. She does vault as well, but the other three events are stronger. Erin is a hard worker and she's excited to be a part of the program."
During the season, Freier won beam and was second in the all-around at the Byers Invitational, and finished fourth in the all-around at the San Diego Classic.
In 2009, Freier was fifth in the nation on bars and eighth in the all-around. At the regional meet, she placed third on beam and fourth in the all-around. She was third in the all-around at the state meet.
During the regular-season, Freier won bars at the Wolverine Classic, was second in the all-around at the For Love or Money meet and fourth in the all-around at the CGA Coaches Spectacular.
"Erin is a little taller than most gymnasts," Mark says. "Because of that, her lines are accentuated. She's great on bars and aggressive on beam."
Hardin was injured and missed the 2011 season, but she was an elite qualifier in 2010. She currently trains at WOGA Gymnastics.
"Lily is a very polished athlete," Mark says. "She has great lines and great presentation. Her strengths are beam, bars and floor. She's a quiet warrior. Lily is very artistic and beautiful, and you can see her personality come through in her gymnastics."
In the 2010 Texas Prime meet, she was fourth on beam, sixth on bars and seventh in the all-around. Hardin, who attends Frisco High School, was also seventh in the all-around at the Metroplex Challenge.
"Lily has beautiful technique on all four events," René says. "Her difficulty level is very good and her presentation is excellent. She has a special quality that stands out. Her best event is bars, but she's proficient on all four."
Arkansas' gymnastics program is in its 10th season. In nine years, the Razorbacks have earned eight NCAA regional bids, won two NCAA regionals, advanced to the NCAA Championship five times, reached the NCAA Super Six, finished in the top 10 in the nation three times, finished ranked in the top 15 seven consecutive seasons, and produced 28 All-America selections and 13 NCAA individual event finals appearances.
In 2011, the Razorbacks tied for the Southeastern Conference regular-season championship, won the NCAA North Central Regional, tied for ninth in the nation, recorded two wins over No. 1-ranked Florida, beat No. 4 Georgia, and set school records with seven dual-meet wins and four road wins.