The 2012 season marks the 10-year anniversary of the gymnastics program at the University of Arkansas. In nine seasons, the Razorbacks have qualified for an NCAA Regional each of the last eight years, winning championships in 2009 and 2011. Arkansas has advanced to the NCAA Championship five times, including the last four years. The program has finished in the top 10 three times, with a trip to the Super Six and a fifth-place finish in 2009, and finished in the top 15 seven straight years.
Individually, Razorbacks have earned 28 All-America honors and 13 appearances in the NCAA individual event finals. Academically, Arkansas led the SEC in team grade point average in 2010 and has ranked among the top 30 in the nation seven times. Razorbacks have earned 62 National Association for Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches for Women Academic Scholar-Athlete and 69 SEC Academic Honor Roll honors.
Four All-Americans return from the 2011 squad, which 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.
In honor of the anniversary, the inaugural team from 2003 will be in attendance and recognized during the meet against LSU on Jan. 20, in addition to other reunion events throughout the weekend. Season tickets are now on sale. To purchase, click on the link below.
To highlight the success of the first nine seasons, we'll take a look back at significant moments in the program's history, in chronological order.
Highlight No. 1: First Meet
Mark and Rene Cook were hired as Arkansas' co-head coaches in 2001. When they arrived in Fayetteville, the Razorbacks didn't have a gym, equipment, leotards or a team.
On Jan. 10, 2003, Arkansas competed for the first time when the Razorbacks played host to No. 16 Denver in Barnhill Arena.
"My heart was pounding," Mark says. "Kim Harris was our first-ever gymnast to compete. She was going on vault and the crowd was completely quiet and not understanding what was going on. After that, the crowd cheered and I breathed a sigh of relief."
The crowd of 4,231 saw Melissa Leigh record a 9.725 on vault, Tiffany Berry a 9.85 on bars, Brooke Lawrence a 9.825 on beam, and Berry, Katie Hardman and Audra Loveless a 9.725 on floor.
"I was very anxious and nervous to get started," René says. "There was so much hype and preparation. It helped to have all those people there. Everyone did really well, but we knew we had a lot of work to do."
Other members of the first team were Whitney Cashwell, Valerie Conroy, Hannah McLeod, Dana McQuillin and Kylee Small.