THE SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP
The University of Arkansas begins post-season action this weekend at the 2006 Southeastern Conference Championship in Birmingham, Ala., Saturday, March 25. It is the fourth SEC Championship for the Gym’Backs since adding gymnastics in 2003.
ABOUT THE MEET (from secsports.com)
The 2006 Southeastern Conference Championship meet returns to Birmingham in 2006 and will be held March 25 in the BJCC Arena. This marks the 26th year that the SEC will crown a team champion in gymnastics. Georgia, the 2005 NCAA Champions, will look to defend their SEC title and take home their sixth SEC crown in the last seven years, while Alabama will be aiming at winning their sixth conference title. LSU, who placed second in 2005 and returns their entire lineup in 2006, is looking to claim the title for the first time since 1981. Florida, who finished fourth last season, will also vie for the SEC Championship, as will Auburn, Arkansas and Kentucky.
ARKANSAS AT THE SEC CHAMPIONSHIP
Arkansas’ inaugural season (2003) saw the Gym’Backs tie for sixth in the seven-team meet. The No. 38 Gym’Backs scored a 194.875 tying the No. 39 Kentucky Wildcats at the meet.
The following year, Arkansas moved into sole possession of the number six spot. Then ranked No. 24, Arkansas managed a 194.825 finishing sixth overall. Arkansas bettered their position again last year moving into the fifth place spot. The 15th-ranked Gym’Backs scored a 195.325 finishing ahead of No. 21 Auburn and No. 19 Kentucky at the meet.
ONE IS A LONELY NUMBER
Arkansas has had just one all-Southeastern Conference selection in the three previous seasons of gymnastics. Senior Melissa Leigh earned all-conference honors in 2004 with a tie for third place on the bars at the league meet.
SEC HONORS HARD TO COME BY
In addition to Melissa Leigh’s all-SEC honor, the Gym’Backs have had a couple other athletes recognized by the league. Dana McQuillin (2004) and Katie Hardman (2006) have both earned SEC Gymnast of the Week honors and Hardman (2005) and Audra Loveless (2004) have both earned SEC Good Works honors.
GYM’BACKS AT NEBRASKA
The University of Arkansas gymnastics team made its first appearance in Lincoln, Neb., Saturday for a double-dual meet with the Huskers. The Gym’Backs lost the meet, 196.475-195.900 but posted the team’s second highest point total this year.
WIN/LOSS DOESN’T MATTER, BUT…
Although a gymnastics teams win/loss record is not important, most teams will tell you it is important to defend your home gym. Arkansas is 21-16 all-time in Barnhill Arena. The Gym’Backs are 4-9 at home against SEC opponents and 8-7 against non-conference foes. The Gym’Backs’ four SEC wins have come against Kentucky (twice) and Auburn (twice).
THREE IN A ROW
Arkansas’ string of three home wins in a row is the best in school history excluding a quad meet win (Arkansas had a pair of quad wins in 2004).
THE BEST HOME RECORD?
Not quite. Arkansas is 3-2 this year in Barnhill Arena with wins over Kentucky, Auburn and Washington. The Gym’Backs lost to Penn State and LSU in Barnhill. Arkansas’ record is the second home winning record in the four years but not the best in school history. Arkansas was 8-3 at home in 2004 – the year the Gym’Backs hosted a pair of quad meets. Arkansas could reach the eight-win home plateau again this year — if they win the 2006 NCAA South Central Regional Meet April 8.
LOOKING AT THE REGIONAL RANKINGS
Arkansas remains in the number six spot in the South Central Regional race. The Gym’Backs faced the number two team in the region, Nebraska, in the Huskers’ home gym — a gym they’ve only lost once in during the last 14 seasons in dual meet action last week. Arkansas came away from the meet with a solid score, one that moved the team up a spot in the national standings but didn’t effect the Gym’Backs in the Regional numbers. Nebraska, however, fell one spot from second to third.
LOOKING FOR THE SCORE
The Gym’Backs entered the Nebraska meeting believing they needed a score of 196.250 to move up into one of the coveted top 18 spots in the country. Arkansas came close with a 195.900 and did jump one spot from No. 20 to No. 19 this week. Kentucky is next on Arkansas’ radar screen and the teams will go head-to-head at the SEC Championship this week. If Arkansas could finish ahead of the Wildcats with a high enough score, the Gym’Backs could move into the No. 18 spot in the national poll.
The top 18 teams in the country will be seeded after this weekend’s action. Those top 18 will be divided equally among the six regional sites April 7 and 8. In addition to the national recognition that position provides, moving into the top 18 will change the make up of the teams sent to Fayetteville for Arkansas’ regional meet.
PEACOCK IS DOING WELL
In just her second season of gymnastics at Arkansas, sophomore Emily Peacock has been a team leader from the beginning. Peacock has competed in every meet during her career, setting a school record with 9.95 on the bars against No. 18 Kentucky in Arkansas’ first Southeastern Conference win of the season in 2006. Peacock has five individual wins this year, two on bars and three on floor. Peacock’s from bars title came at No. 3 Alabama and she followed with a win against No. 18 Kentucky. Her floor titles came against No. 15 Penn State, No. 18 Kentucky and No. 36 Washington this season. Her season bests include a 9.95 on bars, a 9.825 on beam and a 9.925 on floor this season. Although just a sophomore, Peacock has been one of the most consistent gymnasts for Arkansas and has ranked among the South Central Region leaders. This week, Peacock ranks tied for sixth on the bars with an RQS of 9.865 and a season high of 9.950. That score is also an Arkansas school record for the Gym’Backs. Peacock ranks tied for 32nd on the beam with a 9.725 RQS and a 9.825 season-high. She ranks tied for 14th overall on the floor with a 9.825 RQS and a season-best 9.925.
McQUILLIN REALLY IS AN ALL-AROUNDER
In addition to being an all-arounder in the gym, Arkansas senior Dana McQuillin is getting the job done in the classroom as well. The senior has a 3.724 grade point average in interior design and sociology and is an SEC H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar Athlete nominee.
SPEAKING OF SENIORS
Arkansas celebrated the success of the program’s first-ever senior class this year. The Gym’Backs have five of the original 11 gymnasts remaining. They are Katie Hardman, Melissa Leigh, Audra Loveless, Hannah McLeod and Dana McQuillin. All five are on track to graduate this year or next. Hardman will finish with a degree in kinesiology and will enter the coaching ranks after graduation. Leigh and Loveless will both complete kinesiology degrees and Loveless is engaged to be married shortly after graduation. McLeod will graduate with a degree in biology and has been accepted to medical school. McQuillin has an internship planned after graduation and hopes to work in planning and designing living and working spaces for low income individuals.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE
Arkansas began the program in 2003 will 11 freshmen, five of whom we just talked about. But where are the others? The other six all retired from gymnastics at various points in their careers. Four of the six remain in school at Arkansas working with the team or the athletic department and all are on track to graduate. Valerie Conroy is the team’s manager, Brooke Lawrence and Kim Harris work in the marketing office and Whitney Cashwell is a student assistant in the communications office. The other two, Kylee Small and Tiffany Berry, both returned to their home state, Florida. Small recently graduated from the University of Florida and Berry is married and the couple have a son.
THE SEC’S TOUGH
Anyone who knows the Southeastern Conference understands that it is arguably the toughest women’s gymnastics conference in the country. Arkansas’ record against the league reflects that talent as the Gym’Backs are 2-4 against the league. How does Arkansas stack up against the other conferences? Arkansas is 3-2 against the Pacific-10 with a pair of wins over Washington and a win against California. The Gym’Backs lost to UCLA and Oregon State in Hawai’i. Arkansas is 1-0 against the WAC (Sacramento State) and 1-1 versus the EAGL (North Carolina [W], West Virginia [L]) and 0-2 against the Big 12 (Missouri and Nebraska) and the Big 10 (Penn State).
SEC STRONG IN THE POLL
The Southeastern Conference is well represented in the most recent national poll with all seven teams ranked in the top 20. Georgia maintains its strangle-hold on the top spot while Florida remains in third for the second week. Alabama moved from No. 3 to No. 5 last week and stays there this week as well. LSU also fell one spot from No. 7 to No. 8 last week and is still eighth this week. Auburn begins its second consecutive week at No. 14 while Kentucky stayed at No. 18. Arkansas was the only team to move this week, up one spot to No. 19.
ARKANSAS IN THE SEC
Arkansas has held its own against the SEC – arguably the toughest conference for women’s gymnastics in the country. Here’s a look at the SEC’s team RQS and rankings on each event this week.