So CloseThe University of Arkansas couldn’t have been closer to the No. 2 team in the nation last week falling to defending national champions 196.100-196.075 in Barnhill Arena. Although neither team felt they preformed its best, Arkansas was happy with the outcome and the plus-196 score.Arkansas ties recordThe Gym’Backs scored a 49.075 on the vault tying the Arkansas school record for the event. Arkansas has recorded a 49.075 twice before – first Feb. 13, 2004, against No. 10 Missouri and again Feb. 18, 2005, against No. 4 Florida.Gym’Backs tie againArkansas posted a 49.150 on the floor exercise tying the 10th-best mark in school history. The Gym’Backs tied the mark set against second-ranked Georgia Jan. 30, 2004.Season Bests aboundArkansas recorded 17 season-bests and tied two others in the Georgia meet highlighted by junior Emily Peacock’s 9.90 on the floor.Freshmen handling all-around dutiesArkansas had two freshmen handle the all-around duties against No. 2 Georgia last week. Michelle Stout and Casey Jo Magee went all-around finishing third and fourth, respectively. It is the second time for each of the gymnasts this year to go for the all-around – a big responsibility for the youngsters.Ranked opponents continue for Gym’BacksArkansas continues to work its way through a demanding schedule this week traveling to Baton Rouge, La., taking on No. 15 LSU in dual meet action. This marks Arkansas’ third trip to Baton Rouge in program history.About LSULSU enters the week ranked 14th in the country but is coming off what they considered a shaky meet against Illinois in their home opener. The Tigers are 5-2 overall after a 3-2 start at Super Six, LSU defeated Iowa and the Fighting Illini. LSU’s last meet saw LSU count three falls on beam and floor while celebrating head coach D-D Beaux’s 30th year at the helm of her team. LSU returned seven gymnasts from last year’s eighth-place NCAA team including two all-Americans.Arkansas versus LSUThe Gym’Backs have never defeated the Tigers and have an 0-10 all-time mark against one of the nation’s top programs. LSU has edged Arkansas twice in Baton Rouge, twice in Fayetteville, twice in Birmingham (at SECs), twice in Duluth, Ga. (at SECs), once in Durham, N.C. (NCAA Regionals) and once in Corvallis (NCAA Championships). Arkansas’ score moves up in the pollThe Gym’Backs put together two good scores at Penn State and again against Georgia and have jumped back up in the poll to No. 14 this week. The poll is based on team’s average scores again this week. Arkansas faces a very tough vaulting team in LSU. In fact, the Tigers are ranked first in the nation on the vault this week. Arkansas is 13th on the vault. LSU is also ranked higher than Arknasas on the bars although the margin is significantly smaller – 11 to 13th. The Gym’Backs out-rank LSU on beam (22 to 30th) and on floor (16 to 25th). Arkansas’ No. 15 ranking on the vault is the highest vault ranking in program history. The Gym’Backs have been as high as No. 16 in 2004 and 2006.Arkansas Individuals in the pollWith LSU ranked first in the vault, you would expect several Tiger individuals to be ranked as well and you’d be correct. Ashleigh Clare-Kerney is second, Nicki Butler is tied for eighth and Emily Ellis and Kelly Phelan are tied for 24th on the vault. Arkansas does not have an individual in the top 25.The Gym’Backs do have a couple of individuals ranked. Junior Emily Peacock is tied for 21st on the bars and freshman Casey Jo Magee is tied for 21st on the beam. LSU did not have any individuals in the top 25 on those two events.Youth dominates lineupArkansas has a young lineup. There are 24 performances in a meet and that number changes if you factor in the all-around competition. Last week at Penn State Arkansas had 26 performances – six on each event and two all-arounders. The Gym’Backs had 14 of those performances filled with freshmen and sophomores. Arkansas competed two freshmen and two sophomores on vault, four freshmen on bars, three freshmen on beam, one freshman and one sophomore on floor and one freshman in the all-around.
You always winThe fledgling gymnastics program that is the Gym’Backs has performed well in several meets throughout the first four-plus years of existence – but that hasn’t always translated into wins (individual or for the team). However, the Gym’Backs do have their fair share of individual titles and some gymnasts numbers grew again last week at Penn State. Here’s a quick look at some of the win totals.
More TV pleaseNo problem. Nine of Arkansas 13 regular-season meets are slated for television. In addition to ESPN2 televising the Super Six Challenge, Arkansas will be on FSN at Kentucky and at the SEC Championship. The Gym’Backs get some camera time from COX when they host Georgia and at LSU and KFTA is airing Arkansas’ home meets with Florida and Alabama.
Returning Record-HoldersArkansas returns record-holders on three of the five events as the 2007 season begins. Samantha Cortez and Mallory Machnik return tied for the Arkansas vaulting records with 9.90. Junior Emily Peacock returns as the uneven bars record-holder with a 9.950 and senior Rachel Barnett returns as the floor exercise record-holder with a 9.950.
Big Meets Bookend the ScheduleArkansas opens and closes the 2007 season with two of the biggest “home” meets in school history. The Gym’Backs lead off with the Super Six Challenge with six of the nation’s toughest teams in a meet televised by ESPN2. Arkansas closes the regular season at the SEC Championship hosted by ALLTEL Arena in nearby North Little Rock, Ark.
2007 opponents fared well in 2006Fifteen of Arkansas’ 22 regular season opponents advanced to the NCAA Regional Championship a year ago. Six of those reached the NCAA Championship including four SEC opponents. The first time we meetArkansas makes the program’s first trip to Utah this year facing the Utes, BYU and Southern Utah University. The Gym’Backs also make their first trip to State College, Pa., facing Penn State in mid-January. You’re new here aren’t you?Arkansas faces Brigham Young and Southern Utah University Feb. 2 at a quad meet hosted by Utah. They are the only teams on this year’s schedule that Arkansas has never faced in the history of the program.
Frequent flyer miles add upArkansas competes in seven different states this year. The Gym’Backs have competed in 17 different states including Arkansas prior to this year. They add Utah and Pennsylvania to the list this season.
Arkansas in SEC openersArkansas is an even 2-2 in Southeastern Conference openers. The Gym’Backs have downed Kentucky twice as the conference opener. The losses came at the hands of Florida and Georgia. This year, Arkansas opens SEC competition with defending national champion Georgia. ALLTEL Arena hosts SEC Championship North Little Rock’s ALLTEL Arena plays host to this year’s Southeastern Conference Gymnastics Championship. The 2007 Championship at ALLTEL marks the 10th venue to host the league’s teams. Arkansas first competed at the SEC Championship in 2003 when Birmingham hosted the event. The championship moved to Duluth, Ga., in 2004 and 2005 when teams competed in a multi-purpose facility that actually had ice from the previous week’s hockey game under the floor. The SEC Championship returned to Birmingham in 2006 with the new civic center hosting the event. For the first time in league history, the championship was competed on a platform with all of the events raised up off the floor in a set-up that more closely mirrored the national championship. This year, the league championship moves to North Little Rock, Ark., and the platform is again going to be used. The North Little Rock venue has seen its share of high profile Southeastern Conference events having hosted the SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament twice, first in 2003, and again in 2006. Ironically, the SEC Women’s Basketball Championship moves to Duluth, Ga., and the Gwinnett Center – the site of the 2004 and 2005 gymnastics championships. Up NextArkansas has back-to-back road meets first at LSU Jan. 26 followed by a trip to Utah facing the Utes, BYU and SUU.