FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas gymnastics team opens its season Friday against No. 11 Georgia in Barnhill Arena, with a scheduled meet start time for 7 p.m.
The Razorbacks, who are coming off their fourth top-10 national finish in the last five years, are ranked No. 12 in the GymInfo preseason rankings.
“It’s going to be a good battle,” co-head coach Mark Cook
says. “It’s always good to have a strong opponent and an SEC school. Historically, we are used to having high caliber opponents all the time, and it just doesn’t really change anything. If you just focus on the win all the time sometimes you forget about the process. It is really important in sports that are execution based that you really focus on the process.”
Arkansas was 18-20-0 a year ago, finished sixth in the nation, advanced to the Super Six for the second time in program history, advanced to the NCAA Championship for the fifth straight year, finished second in the NCAA South Central Regional, and finished sixth in the SEC Championship meet.
Eight returnees are back from that squad, including five All-Americans - seniors Amy Borsellino
and Kelci Lewis
, juniors Katherine Grable
and Bailee Zumwalde
and sophomore Stephani Canizaro
Grable was a first-team selection on balance beam and second team on vault. She is the school record holder in the all-around category with a score of 39.725 against No. 25 LSU.
Canizaro and Zumwalde each earned second-team All-America honors on the floor exercise by scoring career-highs of 9.85 at the Super Six competition in the National Championship meet.
Other returnees include senior Jordan Salsberg
, juniors Shelby Salmon
and Scarlett Williams
. Arkansas welcomes freshmen Sydnie Dillard
, Heather Elswick
, Erin Freier
, Lillian Hardin
and Keara Glover
“The last month or so we have really been trying to find our stride,” co-head coach René Lyst says. “After practice Sunday, you could see that we are getting to where we need to be, I think it might take a few weeks to get to where we want to be, but at the same time this team is very strong and we just need to go out and not count mistakes or falls and really start out the season with consistency to get our momentum going.”
Georgia leads the all-time series 21-2-1, but since 2011, the series is 3-2-1 in favor of UGA. Arkansas beat Georgia for the first time during the 2011 season, lost in the SEC Championship and tied in the NCAA Championship Session I semifinal. Last year, Georgia claimed wins in Athens, Ga., and in the SEC Championship, but Arkansas won the last meeting, in the NCAA Championship Session II semifinal, 197.15-196.50, to earn a spot in the Super Six.
In 10 years, the Razorbacks have earned nine NCAA regional bids, won two NCAA regionals, advanced to the NCAA Championship six times, reached the NCAA Super Six two times, finished in the top 10 in the nation four times, finished ranked in the top 15 eight consecutive seasons, and produced 36 All-America selections and 16 NCAA individual event finals appearances.