FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas’ gymnastics program has been around for just nine seasons, and after this week, the Razorbacks will have participated in the NCAA Championship for the fifth time.
Arkansas is one of 12 teams in this year’s NCAA Championship, which begins on Friday in Cleveland. The Razorbacks are in the NCAA Session I Semifinal, which is at 11 a.m. on Friday in the Wolstein Center. The top three teams from the afternoon and evening sessions advance to Saturday’s Super Six at 3 p.m. The individual event finals are Sunday at noon.
Under co-head coaches Mark and René Cook, the Razorbacks are participating in the NCAA Championship for the fourth straight year and for the fifth time in six years. Arkansas has earned a spot in an NCAA Regional eight straight years, every year except the first season in 2003.
"This is our ninth season and we’ve now been in the NCAA Championship more than half of our existence," René Cook says. "I think that’s surreal to know we’ve been able to accomplish that. We want to keep going and not settle for that."
Although Arkansas didn’t begin competing until 2003 and reached the NCAA Championship for the first time in 2006, the five overall appearances for the Razorbacks already tie for 18th-most in the country. Arkansas’ five appearances since the program began nine years ago rank 12th in the nation over that period of time.
"It’s one thing to get there, but to have staying power, we couldn’t have imagined being in the NCAA Championship this many times in such a short period when we started the program," Mark Cook says.
Arkansas is also one of just seven teams appearing in the NCAA Championship for a fourth consecutive season.
The all-time leaders in NCAA Championship appearances are Utah 30, Alabama and Florida 29, Georgia and UCLA 27, LSU 22, Oregon State 21, Nebraska 20, Arizona State and Michigan 19, Penn State 16, Oklahoma and Stanford 11, Arizona 10, Brigham Young eight, Cal State-Fullerton seven, Ohio State six, and Arkansas and Washington with five.
Over the last nine years, since 2003, the leaders in NCAA Championship appearances are Alabama, Florida and Utah with nine; Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Oklahoma and UCLA with eight; Nebraska with seven, Oregon State and Stanford six, Arkansas five, Arizona State and BYU three, and Denver and Penn State two.
The seven teams making a fourth consecutive appearance in the championship are Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Oklahoma, Oregon State, UCLA and Utah.
"We want to be a regular in the Super Six and vie for a national championship," René Cook says. "That’s the next step."
The No. 12 Razorbacks are in the NCAA Session I Semifinal along with No. 5 Oklahoma, No. 6 UCLA, No. 8 Georgia, No. 9 Michigan and No. 14 Illinois. The Session II semifinal includes No. 1 Florida, No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Oregon State, No. 7 Utah, No. 10 Nebraska and No. 24 Kent State.
Arkansas advanced to the Super Six in 2009 and finished fifth in the nation. The Razorbacks have ended the year ranked among the nation’s top 15 six consecutive seasons.
Arkansas in the NCAA Championship:2006, Corvalis, Ore., Oregon State, sixth in Session II Semifinal, 12th in nation2008, Athens, Ga., Georgia, fifth in Session II Semifinal, 10th in nation2009, Lincoln, Neb., Nebraska, second in Session II Semifinal; fifth in Super Six, fifth in nation2010, Gainesville, Fla., Florida, fifth in Session II Semifinal, 11th in nation2011, Cleveland, Ohio
Teams in the NCAA Championship for a Fourth Straight Year:ArkansasAlabamaFloridaOklahomaOregon StateUCLAUtah
NCAA Championship Appearances Since Arkansas’ Program Began in 2003:Alabama 9Florida 9Utah 9Georgia 8LSU 8Michigan 8Oklahoma 8UCLA 8Nebraska 7Oregon State 6Stanford 6Arkansas 5Arizona State 3Brigham Young 3Denver 2Penn State 2
All-Time NCAA Championship Appearances:Utah 30Alabama 29Florida 29Georgia 27UCLA 27LSU 22Oregon State 21Nebraska 20Arizona State 19Michigan 19Penn State 16Oklahoma 11Stanford 11Arizona 10Brigham Young 8Cal. State-Fullerton 7Ohio State 6Arkansas 5Washington 5