CANCUN, Mexico – Arkansas’ gymnastics team opened its season with a school-record team score for an opener and claimed the meet title at the five-team Cancun Classic on Friday.
The Razorbacks, ranked 11th in the nation, have recorded multiple big wins in recent years with 32 victories over top 25 opponents in the last three seasons, and they added to that list Friday.
Arkansas topped a field including Southeastern Conference rivals No. 12 LSU and No. 17 Auburn, plus No. 19 Arizona and No. 25 Iowa, to claim the championship.
Competing with a rotation of beam, floor, vault and bars, Arkansas scored a team total 196.45 with a 48.95 on beam, 48.975 on floor, 49.325 on vault and 49.20 on bars.
Arizona was second with a 195.15, followed by Auburn with a 194.775, Iowa 193.875 and LSU 192.50.
"This is an unbelievable way to start the season with so many challenges," co-head coach René Cook said. "The team really handled everything and competed hard. This team is on a mission."
Sophomore All-American Katherine Grable and sophomore Scarlett Williams had career bests on beam, Grable, Jordan Salsberg and junior All-American Kelci Lewis matched their personal bests on vault, and senior Mariah Howdeshell and sophomore Shelby Salmon had career highs on bars.
Grable, who won all-around titles in her first two meets as a freshman last year, won the all-around with a 39.275. She also won beam with a 9.925. Senior All-American Jaime Pisani won vault with a 9.925 and floor with a 9.90, and Howdeshell won bars with a 9.925.
"We started off on beam and really rocked on that event," co-head coach Mark Cook said. "That got us going. Then we had some great floor routines, stuck our vaults and did a great job on bars. The team has really trained hard since last year ended. They believe in our system and they came through. This tells us where we are and we’re happy."
On beam, Salsberg, a junior all-arounder, opened with a solid 9.80. Grable led the way with a career-best 9.925, followed by Williams with a personal-best 9.875, Salsberg’s 9.80, Howdeshell’s 9.725 and Salmon’s 9.625.
Through the first rotation, LSU led with a 49.20 on vault, followed by Arkansas, Arizona with a 48.775 on bars and Iowa a 48.375 on floor.
On floor, sophomore Bailee Zumwalde led off with a 9.75. Pisani posted a team-best 9.90 followed by Grable’s 9.875, Zumwalde’s 9.75 and a pair of 9.725s from junior Amy Borsellino and Salsberg.
Next on vault, Borsellino, an All-American in the event last year, led off with a 9.775. Pisani scored a 9.925, followed by Grable’s career-high matching 9.90. Salsberg also matched her personal-best with a 9.875 and Lewis matched her best of 9.85.
The 49.325 team total equals last year’s season best, which the Razorbacks hit twice, and ties for sixth-best in school history.
Through three rotations, the Razorbacks led the meet with 147.25, followed by Arizona (146.275), Auburn (97.625), LSU (97.175) and Iowa (96.95).
Arkansas followed with a bye before closing the meet on bars.
Salsberg led off with a 9.75. Howdeshell had a career-best 9.925, followed by Pisani with a 9.90, Salmon with a career-best 9.85 and freshman Stephani Canizaro with a 9.775 in her first event as a Razorback.
"We had a great start on beam, and Scarlett and Katherine were unbelievable," René said. "On floor, everybody stayed focused when Scarlett got hurt and Jordan’s music quit midway through her routine. On vault, from top to bottom, we stuck so many landings. On bars, Mariah came through and we finished strong."
The Razorbacks are in Fayetteville for their home and Southeastern Conference opener next week when the play host to Kentucky on Friday at 7 p.m. in Barnhill Arena.
"We told them this is just the beginning," Mark said. "It builds our confidence because if you can focus here, other meets are a lot more routine. Now we’re focusing on Kentucky and maintaining that (196) score."
Collegiate GymnasticsCancun ClassicJan. 6, 2012Iberostar Hotel and Golf Resort
Team Standings:No. 11 Arkansas 196.45, No. 19 Arizona 195.15, No. 17 Auburn 194.775, No. 25 Iowa 193.875, No. 12 LSU192.50
Arkansas’ Individual Results:
Beam: 48.95Jordan Salsberg 9.80, Shelby Salmon9.625, Scarlett Williams 9.875, Mariah Howdeshell 9.725, Jaime Pisani 9.275, Katherine Grable 9.925
Floor: 48.975Bailee Zumwalde 9.75, Amy Borsellino 9.725, Scarlett Williams 2.0, Jordan Salsberg 9.725, Katherine Grable 9.875, Jaime Pisani 9.90
Vault: 49.325Amy Borsellino 9.775, Kelci Lewis 9.85, Jordan Salsberg 9.875, Mariah Howdeshell 9.625, Jaime Pisani 9.925, Katherine Grable 9.90
Bars: 49.20Jordan Salsberg 9.75, Stephani Canizaro 9.775, Katherine Grable 9.575, Jaime Pisani 9.90, Shelby Salmon 9.85, Mariah Howdeshell 9.925