FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas’ gymnastics team has been placed in the second session of the NCAA Championship in Gainesville, Fla., next week, the NCAA has announced.
The Razorbacks finished second in the NCAA West Regional at UCLA over the weekend and have advanced to the NCAA Championship for the fourth time in the program’s eight years. Arkansas is in the NCAA Championship for the third consecutive season and the fourth time in five years.
This year’s championship is April 22-24 at the University of Florida. The 12 finalist compete in two six-team sessions on Thursday with the top three from each group advancing to Friday’s Super Six. Individual event finals are on Saturday.
"We’re excited about qualifying for the third year in a row," co-head coach Mark Cook says. "We’re looking forward to the competition. We have confidence in our ability. We want to use every opportunity to better ourselves and see how close we can get to the mountaintop."
The Razorbacks have been in Session II in all four trips to the championship.
Session II also includes No. 2 Florida, No. 3 Alabama, No. 6 Stanford, No. 10 Missouri and No. 11 Michigan.
"We’re very familiar with Alabama and Florida," co-head coach René Cook says. "We’ve seen them several times. Stanford, Missouri and Michigan have all qualified for nationals before. If we do our job, we can be competitive with them."
"We prefer the second session because there’s a better opportunity to achieve certain things," co-head coach Mark Cook says. "We like the matchup we have with the teams in our session."
Session I includes No. 1 UCLA, No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 5 Utah, No. 8 Oregon State, No. 9 LSU and No. 12 Nebraska.
"It’s nice to be in the second session with the home team," René Cook says. "That puts more energy in the gym and it’s more of a routine in our preparation throughout the day. It’s a matter of controlling your energy and being well-prepared."
Arkansas’ rotation is set with the Razorbacks opening on bars, followed by beam, bye, floor, vault and bye.
"We like the rotation," Mark Cook says. "You have to compete on all four events so it really doesn’t matter, but this is one we’re a little more familiar with."
The meet takes place in Florida’s O’Connell Center, where Arkansas competed on Jan. 15. The NCAA Championship meet is on podium, meaning all event stations are on elevated platforms, as was the Southeastern Conference Championship.
"Florida is familiar to us and the meet is on podium," Mark Cook says. "There’s a level of adjustment for that and we experienced that at the SEC meet."
"It’s nice to have some familiarity, but it will be different because it’s on podium," René Cook says.
In the NCAA West Regional, Arkansas was second to host UCLA, but ahead of No. 21 Arizona, No. 17 Iowa State, No. 32 Arizona State and No. 26 Brigham Young.
Arkansas scored 196.675 points, a school record for a regional and the eighth-best total in school history. Arkansas had 49.100 on vault, 49.400 on bars, 49.05 on beam and 49.125 on floor.
The bars total is an overall school record, while the vault total ranks fourth, beam second and floor third for a regional.
Arkansas advanced to the Super Six for the first time last year after finishing second in Session II and finished fifth in the nation.
"What we did last year gives us a sense of confidence in that we can compete with the best," René Cook says. "We have to earn it. Our goal at the regional was to finish in the top two. Our goal here is to be in the top three. We want to keep it simple and never take anything for granted. All of these teams are very good."