Rough Road Trip The University of Arkansas had nothing but trouble on its road trip to Utah last week. A mechanical delay out of XNA on Thursday forced the team to stay overnight in Bentonville only to leave the hotel at 4:15 a.m. for an early morning flight on the day of the meet. The Gym’Backs departed XNA only to be delayed again in Dallas, Texas. Arkansas finally got to Utah just two hours before warmups began. The valiant effort saw Arkansas finish second in the quad meet with a 193.625 behind No. 3 Utah and ahead of No. 22 BYU and No. 29 Southern Utah. Ranked opponents continue for Gym’Backs Arkansas continues to work its way through a demanding schedule this week hosting top-ranked Florida for the second time this year. Florida won the Super Six Challenge Jan. 5, in Barnhill Arena.Arkansas’ score doesn’t hurt too bad The Gym’Backs had moved up to a tie for 13th place in the national poll prior to the Utah meet. Arkansas knew the low, 193.625 score, would drop them in the poll but the Gym’Backs only fell to No. 16. Not a terrible drop for this time of the year.Arkansas Individuals in the poll Arkansas also has a pair of Gym’Backs ranked in the top 20 as individuals this year. Freshman Casey Jo Magee ranks tied for 13th on the beam with a 9.842 average and a high score of 9.90 set against LSU. Teammate junior Emily Peacock ranks 24th on bars with a 9.830 average and a 9.875 season-best.Big Vault at Utah Arkansas was in third place trailing Utah and BYU through three rotations last week. The Gym’Backs finished the meet on vault and rallied with a solid 48.975 in their final rotation. Although not record-setting, the score was good enough to move Arkansas into second place at the quad meet. Arkansas sent just five vaulters and all scored a 9.7 or better.Arkansas versus Number One Arkansas hosts Florida Friday and the Gators come to Fayetteville ranked No. 1 in the country this week. This is only the second time in the program’s history Arkansas has faced the No. 1 team in the nation. The Gym’Backs took on No. 1 Georgia at the SEC Championship March 25, 2006, in the only other meeting with the top team. Arkansas competed against UCLA in 2003 when the Bruins were ranked No. 5. UCLA went on to win the national title that year and finished the season ranked No. 1. Arkansas faced No. 6/8 Georgia in 2005 and No. 3/1 Georgia in 2006 and the Gym Dogs went on to win back-to-back national titles and finish those years ranked No. 1.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 Utah, Arkansas had 24 performances – six each one bars, beam and floor, five on vault and one all-arounder. The Gym’Backs had 12 of those performances filled with freshmen and sophomores. Arkansas competed two freshmen and a sophomore on vault, four freshmen on bars, two freshmen on beam, two freshmen 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. Here’s a quick look at some of the win totals.Did you know – Vault (Athletes on this year’s roster only – not all-time) Of the 12 gymnasts on this year’s roster, junior Samantha Cortez holds seven of the top 10 vault marks. She has posted three 9.90s during her career and four 9.85s.Did you know – Bars (Athletes on this year’s roster only – not all-time) Junior Emily Peacock has been a dominate gymnast for Arkansas on the uneven bars. She holds the school record on the event with a 9.95 and has all but two of the top 10 marks among her current teammates.Did you know – Beam (Athletes on this year’s roster only – not all-time) It’s senior Cassie Drew’s turn to shine on balance beam as she holds four of the top seven marks (several athletes have a 9.850). Drew has scored a 9.90 three times most recently at the Gym’Back Quad in 2005.Did you know – Floor (Athletes on this year’s roster only – not all-time) Senior Rachel Barnett holds the top two spots on the current roster for the floor exercise. She has scored a 9.950 twice in her career most recently against No. 14 LSU in 2004. Cassie Drew and Emily Peacock have also faired well on the floor for Arkansas.
Did you know – All-Around (Athletes on this year’s roster only – not all-time) Arkansas again has looked to senior Cassie Drew for leadership as an all-arounder. Drew holds the top spot with a 39.20 set last year. Freshmen Michelle Stout and Casey Jo Magee have made their marks on the numbers as well.
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.
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.
ALLTEL Arena hosts SEC ChampionshipNorth 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 returns from back-to-back road meets (LSU and Utah) to host consecutive home meets. The Gym’Backs welcome No. 1 Florida Feb. 9, followed by No. 4 Alabama Feb. 16.