No. 13 Gym’Backs travel to Michigan The 13th-ranked University of Arkansas gymnastics team earned the program’s fourth consecutive trip in five seasons to the NCAA Regional Championship. Arkansas travels to Ann Arbor, Mich., taking part in the Northeast Regional Saturday, April 14. Host and 12th-ranked Michigan along with top-ranked Florida are also in the field. The other teams competing are No. 41 Pittsburgh, No. 43 New Hampshire and No. 53 Rutgers.
Arkansas one of 18 seeded teams It’s always a goal to be one of the top 18 seeded teams in the NCAA Regional. Arkansas, for the third consecutive season, finds themselves seeded in the 13th-spot. This is the highest the Gym’Backs have ever been seeded. Arkansas was ranked but unseeded in 2004. The Gym’Backs were 15th in 2005 and 18th last year when Arkansas hosted the South Central Regional Championship in Fayetteville.
The Rotation Arkansas opens the meet with a bye before the floor exercise. The Gym’Backs move to vault, bye 1, bars and beam. Here’s a look at the complete rotation.
|No.||Vault||Bye I||Bars||Beam||Bye II||Floor|
How does it work? There are six NCAA Regional sites. They are the Central Region (Tuscaloosa, Ala.-Alabama, host); North Central Region (Denver, Colo.-Denver, host); Northeast Regional (Ann Arbor, Mich.-Michigan, host); South Central Region (Tucson, Ariz.-Arizona, host); Southeast Regional (Morgantown, WV-West Virginia, host) and the West Regional (Berkeley, Calif.-California, host). The NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Regional Championships will feature six teams per regional site as well as five all-arounders and four event specialists. The top two teams and the top two all-around gymnasts (who are not on a qualifying team) in each of six regionals receive berths to the 12-team field at the NCAA Championships, which will be held April 26-28 in Salt Lake City, Utah. In addition, any event winner who scores at least a 9.800 and is not part of a qualifying team will advance to the national championships in that event only.
About the NCAA Championship The University of Utah hosts the 2007 NCAA Gymnastics Championship in Salt Lake City, Utah. The event takes place in the Jon M. Huntsman Center on the campus of the University of Utah, April 26-28.
Arkansas at Regionals Arkansas has been to a regional four times in the past five seasons. The Gym’Backs finished fourth in 2004, fourth in 2005 and second in 2006. The second-place finish allowed Arkansas to advance to the program’s first-ever NCAA Championship last year.
You again – About Florida Arkansas and Florida should be very familiar with each other. The Gym’Backs hosted the Gators in the Super Six to open the 2007 season. Florida returned to Fayetteville for the regular season Southeastern Conference meeting and the teams met again at the SEC Championship in North Little Rock, Ark. In addition to seeing Florida three times already this year, Arkansas has faced the Gators three times in the post-season. The Gym’Backs traveled to Arizona for regional action in 2004 when eighth-ranked Florida finished second to advance to the NCAA Championship. Last year, the third-ranked Gators won the Arkansas-hosted South Central Region with Arkansas second. The teams met one final time at the NCAA Championship in 2006. The Gators have held the top spot in the poll for 11 of 12 weeks and are coming off the SEC Championship winning the league title for the first time since 1989.
Arkansas versus Florida Arkansas is 0-11-0 all-time against Florida including an 0-3 mark this year.
About the rest of the field (from mgoblue.com) The Gym’Backs face Michigan and Rutgers for the first time this year but are meeting Pittsburgh and New Hampshire for the second time this season. Joining the teams in the competition are five all-around competitors and one specialist for each of the four events. The all-around gymnasts are: Kelly Gurney (Rhode Island), Alina Liao (Yale), Marissa Rosen (Penn), Alicia Sacramone (Brown) and Julia Zimmerman (MIT). The event specialists are: Anada Fraser (Rhode Island) on vault, Lizzie Lowe (Penn) on uneven bars, Jennifer Sobuta (Brown) on balance beam and Miki Seltzer (Yale) on floor exercise. Sacramone was named ECAC Rookie of the Year, while Zimmerman was the National Collegiate Gymnastics Association (NCGA) All-Around champion and ECAC Division III Gymnast of the Year. Liao and Gurney punched their tickets to Ann Arbor last season, competing in the all-around competition at the 2006 Northeast Regional, while Seltzer competed on vault and floor.
About Michigan The Wolverines have the luxury of competing in their home gym in a grueling meet where only the top two teams advance. For Michigan, the trip to the NCAA Regional Championships is its 16th in a row. The team has advanced to the NCAA Championships in each of the last 14 seasons. Michigan did not face any of this year’s participants during the 2007 season. New Hampshire, Pittsburgh and Rutgers made the trip to Ann Arbor for the 2006 NCAA Northeast Regional, finishing 4-5-6.
About Pittsburgh, New Hampshire and Rutgers All three teams competed in the EAGL Championships this past weekend with Pitt taking fourth place, Rutgers claiming sixth and New Hampshire finishing seventh out of eight teams. Arkansas faced Pitt and New Hampshire in Barnhill Arena March 9 in quad meet action. The Gym’Backs won the meet scoring a 196.250 to finish ahead of West Virginia (194.300), Pittsburgh (193.350) and New Hampshire (192.650).
Arkansas versus Pitt, UNH, and Rutgers The Gym’Backs are 2-0 against Pittsburgh with wins in 2005 and 2007. Arkansas is 0-1 against New Hampshire (2005) and 1-0 against Rugerts 92005)
SEC dominates the national scene – again In addition to Arkansas, five other SEC teams were seeded as Regionals begin. Top-ranked Florida leads the field, followed by two-seed Georgia and No. 3 Alabama. LSU enters the week as a five-seed, along with No. 13 Arkansas and No. 17 Auburn. Kentucky, although not seeded, is tied for 26th and also earns a Regional bid traveling to the Central site.
Arkansas’ youthful lineup The Gym’Backs have a somewhat young team. Arkansas has had anywhere from 12-16 freshman and sophomore performances per meet this year and by now, the youngsters are no longer considered “young,” However, the pressure of the big meet is still there are Arkansas’ youth is a factor. The Gym’Backs saw that as they stumbled on the beam at the SEC Championship last week.
More about being young Arkansas returned seven gymnasts from last year’s NCAA Championship participant team and two of those gymnasts have retired. The Gym’Backs return two gymnasts on each event who competed at last year’s NCAA South Central Regional. See the column on the next page.
Getting it done on the vault Arkansas has had a pretty steady vault line up late in the year. Freshman Casey Jo Magee leads off followed by senior Cassie Drew, sophomore Alex LaChance, junior Samantha Cortez, freshman Ashly McPerson and freshman Michelle Stout as the anchor. Cortez leads the team wit a 9.808 average but Stout ranks 40th in the nation based on her RQS.
On the beam Arkansas ranks 10th on beam this week – their highest individual event ranking right now. The Gym’Backs are paced by freshman Casey Jo Magee with a 9.831 average as she anchors the group. Junior Emily Peacock is averaging a 9.773 while senior Cassie Drew checks in wit a 9.671 average on beam.
Posting some winning numbers As a young team, the Gym’Backs have, at times, struggled to notch wins in meets and on individual events. That’s changing as the program continues to improve and Arkansas’ win totals are getting better. Junior Emily Peacock surpassed Arkansas legend Dana McQuillin this year with 14 individual titles. Peacock has spread the victories between bars, beam and floor but has the most wins, eight, on bars. Peacock has two wins on the beam and four on the floor. Freshmen Michelle Stout and Casey Jo Magee will no doubt challenge those numbers with each of the newcomers talling five wins this year.
How do the teams compare? Rankings aren’t everything but the numbers are often a good indication of how teams are doing this year. Clearly Florida is the top-ranked team in the nation and they are highly ranked on each individual apparatus. The Gators rank first as a team, seventh on vaults, first on bars, second on beam and first on the floor exercise. Michigan ranks 12th as a team, tied for 11th on vault, eighth on bars, tied for 12th on beam and tied for 16 on floor. The Gym’Backs are 13th as a team, tied for 16th on vault, 16th on bars, 10th on beam and 13th on the floor. Here’s a look at all six teams’ ranking on each event this year.
Tickets for the Regional Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students, seniors and children (under the age of 18) in the reserved lower bowl (blue) seats. General admission (yellow) seats are also available for $5 — tickets can be purchased through the Michigan Ticket Office.