GYM’BACKS HOST NCAA SOUTH CENTRAL REGIONALApril 8 will be a banner day in the history of Arkansas gymnastics. That’s the day Arkansas hosts the program’s first NCAA Regional Meet in Barnhill Arena. The four-year-old Gym’Back program welcomes No. 3 Florida, No. 9 UCLA, Illinois, Illinois-Chicago, Southeast Missouri State and individual gymnasts from Texas Woman’s University and Illinois State for a 6:00 p.m. meet in Barnhill.
ARKANSAS AT THE SEC CHAMPIONSHIPThe Gym’Backs were solid at the 2006 SEC Championship finishing sixth and just missing the number five spot that Auburn (194.975) captured. Sophomore Cassie Drew was the Gym’Backs best finisher on vault tying for sixth with a 9.80 and senior Katie Hardman tied for fifth overall on the balance beam with a 9.85 for Arkansas.
NICE TO PLACE BUT IT’S THE SCORE THAT MATTERSArkansas would have liked to place higher at the SEC Championship but more importantly than the team’s finish was the team’s score. The Gym’Backs posted a 194.65 to move the team up in the national rankings. That move to the No. 18 spot allowed Arkansas to be one of the 18 seeded teams at this week’s regional meet.
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 ROWArkansas’ 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 RANKINGSArkansas finished the regular season in the number six spot in the South Central Regional race – a position they held almost the entire year. The Gym’Backs faced the number three 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. 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.
MORE ABOUT THE REGIONTalk about tough! Arkansas is in the South Central Region and is currently sixth in the standings but look who’s ahead of the Gym’Backs. Oklahoma is on top of the regional rankings and is ranked sixth in the country. They are followed by No. 11 Arizona State, No. 12 Nebraska, No. 13 Missouri and No. 15 Arizona before you get to Arkansas at No. 18. The top six teams in the region were seeded at regional championships. In addition, Illinois, seventh in the region, is No. 30 in the country followed by No. 42 UIC, and No. 49 Southeast Missouri. Northern Illinois is ranked No. 48 but didn’t get a team bid while No. 50 TWU and No. 57 Illinois State both send individuals to the regional championship in Fayetteville.
GETTING BETTER EACH WEEKArkansas has held steady in each week’s polls. Check out the box to the right to see the Gym’Backs’ week-by-week progress.
SOME MORE NUMBERSFlorida enters the meet as the top-ranked team in the field on every event except bars where UCLA is the higher ranked team. Arkansas is a comfortable third on all of the events. Here’s a quick look at the numbers:
|FL||49.265 (5)||49.070 (8)||49.130 (4)||49.230 (6)||196.570 (3)|
|UCLA||49.200 (6)||49.200 (5)||48.955 (12)||49.120 (10)||196.230 (t9)|
|ARK||48.915 (20)||48.800 (20)||48.800 (18)||49.030 (17)||195.290 (18)|
|ILL||48.780 (25)||48.535 (30)||48.470 (24)||48.775 (27)||194.060 (30)|
|UIC||48.645 (34)||48.480 (34)||47.915 (43)||48.385 (45)||192.810 (42|
|SEMO||48.235 (47)||48.225 (43)||47.490 (t50)||48.125 (50)||192.005 (49)|
PEACOCK IS DOING WELLIn 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.
McQULIINI REALLY IS AN ALL-AROUNDERIn 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 SENIORSArkansas 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 MOREArkansas 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 TOUGHAnyone 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 POLLThe 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 third week. Alabama moved from No. 3 to No. 5 two week’s ago and stays there this week as well. LSU also fell one spot from No. 7 to No. 8 two week’s ago but rebounded up to No. 7 after SECs. Auburn begins its third consecutive week at No. 14 while Arkansas (No. 18) and Kentucky (No. 19) trade places.