About the SEC Championship2005 SEC ChampionshipMarch 26 • Duluth, GeorgiaArena at Gwinnett Center (11,000) The 2005 Southeastern Conference Championship meet will be held March 26 in Duluth, Ga. This marks the 25th year that the SEC will crown a team champion in gymnastics. Georgia will look to defend their title and take home their fifth SEC crown in the last six years, while Alabama will be aiming at taking their seventh title. Florida, who placed fourth in 2004, is looking to claim the title for the first time since 1989. LSU, who finished third last season, will also vie for the SEC Championship, as will Auburn and Kentucky. Arkansas, who is entering only their third season competing in gymnastics, will make their third appearance at the SEC Championship after finishing sixth a year ago. Arkansas at the SEC ChampionshipThe 2005 season marks the third trip to the SEC Championship for the Gym’Backs. Arkansas’ first appearance in the program’s inaugural year came in 2003 when the Gym’Backs tied with Kentucky for sixth place. Last year, Arkansas captured sixth place outright and garnered the team’s first all-SEC performer. Leigh Leads Gym’Backs at SECsMelissa Leigh captured the team’s first all-SEC honor last year scoring a 9.90 on bars at the league meet. Leigh owns the Arkansas record book on the event hitting the top mark, a 9.925 twice during her career. Scoring at SECsArkansas recorded a 194.875 and was ranked 38th in the country at the team’s first SEC meet. Last year, Arkansas improved it place but scored lower with a 194.825. They were ranked 24th at last year’s SEC meet. Against the FieldThe Gym’Backs face each SEC opponent at least once throughout the year with the second appearance coming at the SEC Championship. Here’s a look at how the Gym’Backs stack up against the nation’s toughest conference: Alabama (0-5), Auburn (2-3), Florida (0-6), Georgia (0-5), Kentucky (4-0-1), LSU (0-5), Total (6-24-1) SEC ExperienceAt this point in the season, no Gym’Back can claim “freshman nerves” heading into the SEC Championship. Nearly everyone on the roster has contributed at some point this year and Arkansas has already faced the nation’s best competition during the regular season. However, this year, Arkansas does have the luxury of five juniors who have competed at SECs on the roster. Katie Hardman, Melissa Leigh, Audra Loveless, Hannah McLeod and Dana McQuillin are all veterans at the meet. Sophomores Add Experience TooSophomores Rachel Barnett and Cassie Drew have also experienced the SEC Meet. As a true freshman, Barnett recorded a 9.850 on bars, 9.825 on beam and a 9.675 on floor while Drew added a 9.70 on vault, 9.80 on bars, 9.150 on beam, 9.825 on floor and a 38.475 as an all-arounder last year. SEC Academic Honor Roll2004 (first year Arkansas was eligible
|Melissa Leigh||Liberal Arts|
|Dana McQuillin||Interior Design|
All-Time SEC Results (since Arkansas added gymnastics) 2003
Georgia defends titleGeorgia won its 13th SEC Championship scoring a 198.175. Alabama’s Jeana Rice took home the all-around, vault and shared the uneven bar title with Georgia’s Cory Fritzinger. Fritzinger also won the balance beam title. Alabama’s Ashley Miles and Georgia’s Marlene Stephens shared the floor exercise title. LSU’s April Burkholder earned SEC Athlete of the Year honors. Georgia’s Kelsey Ericksen was named SEC Freshman of the Year and teammate Kinsey Rowe was named the SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year. Georgia head coach Suzanne Yoculan was also named the SEC Coach of the Year for the sixth time. SECs as a stepping stoneLast season, Arkansas was solid throughout the year and had a good score at SECs vaulting the team to its first NCAA Regional appearance. The Gym’Backs are again in solid position for a Regional appearance and could be one of the seeded teams if they remain in the top 18 in the poll. More about the RegionThere are six NCAA Regional sites with eight teams sent to each location. The top 18 teams are scattered around the country regardless of regular season regional alignment. The remaining teams travel to their own regional site. The exception is, of course, if you are hosting. Auburn, Ala. — Host: Auburn University About the CoachesMark and Rene Cook are in their third season with a team at Arkansas and the fourth year at the University. Challenged with building a program from the ground up, where nothing, no training facility, no equipment, no uniforms, existed before was a task the duo embraced on their first day on campus. Since that time, Arkansas has continued to improve and climb in both the win/loss column and in the rankings. This year, Arkansas reached an all-time program best 11th ranking as a team and was ranked as high as fifth on beam. The Coaches Cook have a 21-37-1 overall record (prior to SECs) at Arkansas and are 5-12 in SEC regular season meets. The Cooks and the Gym’Backs have one NCAA Regional appearance, have been ranked fourth in attendance in each of their first two seasons and have had 17 NACGC/W Academic All-Americans in their first two seasons. Time Keeps on tickingArkansas’ 2005 season is winding down but the Gym’Backs have big meets remaining on the short schedule. Arkansas hosted a top-notch quad meet with Nebraska, Oregon State and UCLA last weekend, followed by a trip to the Southeastern Conference Championship March 26 in Duluth, Ga. Arkansas will most likely receive a bid to the NCAA Regional competition and hopes to earn a spot in the NCAA Super Six hosted by Auburn April 21-23. Multi-MediaArkansas gymnastics goes multimedia this season when the Gym’Backs offer their meets online. Three of the five home meets will be available pay-per-view on LADYBACKS.COM while two events will air free of charge. Both the Missouri meet and the Quad are online with the Missouri event airing free and the quad as a pay-per-view event. In addition Arkansas is packaging athlete routines and will display some of that video on each athlete’s bio page in the weeks to come. The Friendly ConfinesArkansas began the season with three consecutive road meets and five of the first six meets were away from home. But the Gym’Backs wrap up the season with four of their final five at home. Arkansas was 8-6 in Barnhill Arena in the first two seasons of action and is 1-6 this year for an 9-12 all-time mark. This Week In The PollArkansas dropped to No. 15 this week despite defeating higher-ranked Oregon State and posting a good home score. The Gym’Backs spent two weeks at No. 11 and have fluttered between No. 11 and No. 15 much of the season. Back-to-back low scores against Alabama and Denver saw Arkansas tumble a couple spots recently but a solid mark against Missouri moved the Gym’Backs up one spot to No. 14 last week. About The PollArkansas has been in and out of the poll in various spots the first two seasons finishing last year ranked 20th overall. The Gym’Backs entered 2005 ranked 24th in the preseason poll and have climbed as high as No. 11 this year. More About The PollUnlike other collegiate athletic rankings, collegiate gymnastic rankings are not based on wins and losses or votes. Gymnastic teams are ranked by their meet scores alone. Teams are ranked by their highest score from Jan. 10-17. From Jan. 24-Feb. 14, teams will be ranked by their season average. Starting Feb. 21, teams and gymnasts will be ranked by a Regional Qualifying Score (RQS). An RQS is based on a team’s top six regular-season scores, with three scores coming from away meets. To obtain the RQS, the team’s or gymnast’s highest score is dropped and the remaining five scores are averaged. Arkansas Against the PollThe Gym’Backs have faced a very competitive schedule this year. In fact, all 13 of this year’s oppoennts are ranked in the top 25 this week. Arkansas traveled to No. 2 LSU, faced No. 3 UCLA, No. 4 Nebraska, No. 5 Alabama and No. 6 Georgia at home, met No. 12 Oregon State in both a home and a neutral meet, traveld to No. 18 Denver, Not. 19 Kentucky, No. 21 Auburn, No. 22 Minnesota and NO. 23 Washington and, finally, hosted No. 24 Missouri this season. In addition, Arkansas still has to face No. 2 LSU, No. 5 Alabama, No. 6 Florida, No. 8 Georgia, No. 19 Kentucky and No. 21 Auburn at a neutral site at the SEC Championship this week. Holding On In The South Central RegionArkansas ranks third this week in the South Central Region poll. The Gym’Backs trail both Nebraska and Oklahoma but are just ahead of Arizona and Arizona State. Also in the South CentralArkansas ranks third overall as a team in the South Central Regional but only ranks third on the balance beam in the SC this week. The Gym’Backs are fifth on both the vault and bars and sixth on the floor exercise. Several individuals are also ranked in the South Central on various events. Here’s a look at this week’s rankings. VaultSamantha Cortez (16th), Audra Loveless (t21), Cassie Drew (32), Dana McQuillin (t38), Hannah McLeod (t41). BarsMelissa Leigh (t14), Emily Peacock (t14), Cassie Drew 919), Katie Hardman (t31), Dana McQuillin (t31), Samantha Cortez (t59). BeamKatie Hardman (8), Cassie Drew (10), Hannah McLeod (16), Emily Peacock (20), Dana McQuillin (t29), Melissa Leigh (t50). FloorMallory Machnik (t11), Katie Hardman (17), Emily Peacock (35), Rachel Barnett (36), Dana McQuillin (t43). All-AroundDana McQuillin (13), Samantha Cortez (24).