FAYETTEVILLE – The No. 11 University of Arkansas gymnastics team is set to start the 2014 season and a run for the NCAA Championships for the eighth time in program history. In the final of a four-part preview series, Arkansas returns four gymnasts from the floor lineup in 2013, adds two freshmen and welcomes back an All-American gymnast from an injury to the 2014 rotation.
The Razorbacks return senior All-Americans Katherine Grable
and Bailee Zumwalde
, sophomores Sydnie Dillard
and Heather Elswick
from the squad’s 2013 campaign. The 2013 lineup scored a season high 49.400 twice which also tied for the fifth-best floor rotation score in program history. The lineup also finished as the No. 9 floor rotation for the season.
Also returning to the lineup this season is All-American Stephani Canizaro
and the Razorbacks will welcome the addition of freshmen Samantha Nelson
and Amanda Wellick
“Having four gymnasts return to our floor lineup this year will add more depth, experience and confidence to our lineup,” assistant coach Samantha Cortez
said. “It is very competitive to make the floor lineup within our team and our top six routines are very strong. Everyone has upgraded their routines this year in some way. A goal that we always set for our floor lineup is to break the current record and everyone is on board with our team goal as well as breaking their own personal bests for individual goals.”
Grable will lead the lineup after making the NCAA Event Finals on the floor for the second time in her career with a sixth-place finish last season. The newcomers will also look to the two additional All-Americans in Canizaro and Zumwalde who earned their honors in 2012.
“Half of our lineup this year are freshmen and the other half have experience and will bring strength and leadership to our lineup this season,” senior Grable said. “We have a potential of four to five level E passes in our routines which will help the overall strength of our lineup. We also have been working specifically on landings this year, which will help us cut down on deductions as much as possible.”
The Razorbacks will return five gymnasts that have career bests of 9.85 or better including the program’s second best scorer in Grable with a 9.95 and Zumwalde returns a best score of 9.875. Canizaro, Dillard and Elswick each return a personal best of 9.85.
“I am really excited for our floor rotation this season,” sophomore Dillard said. “We have improved everyone’s difficulty during their routines for this year and that will help us improve our overall score as a team.”
The Razorbacks begin the season on Friday, Jan. 10, hosting Western Michigan and Bridgeport in Barnhill Arena. The season opener is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.
For more information on Arkansas gymnastics, follow @RazorbackGYM on Twitter.