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Gym’Backs close season at NCAA Championship

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Gym’Backs close season at NCAA Championship

Jump to results CORVALLIS, Ore. – Seniors Katie Hardman, Melissa Leigh, Audra Loveless, Dana McQuillin and Hannah McLeod competed for the final time in the Cardinal and White leading the University of Arkansas gymnastics team to a sixth place finish in the second session at the 2006 NCAA Championships in Corvallis, Ore., Thursday. The first senior class at Arkansas closed their careers after leading the inaugural program in 2003 to three NCAA Regional appearances, back-to-back top 18 rankings, some of the largest crowds in college gymnastics and, finally, to the National Championships this week. Arkansas scored a 194.375 finishing behind a blistering 197.300 from defending national champion Georgia who won the second session to advance. Iowa State snuck in ahead of Florida with a 196.250 while the Gators posted a 196.225 as both teams advance to Friday’s finals. Arizona State was fourth in the session with a 195.50 followed by host Oregon State with a 195.150 and Arkansas at 194.375. “We’re really proud of our performance in such an intense environment,” said co-head coach Rene Cook. “We made our routines and fought through and hung on. This team has done a great job in taking us to the next year.” “I agree,” added co-head coach Mark Cook. “We didn’t count a fall and we really helped build our future with this step. This team has a lot of tenacity and heart and I’m extremely proud of them.” The excitement of the previous two weeks culminated in the evening session in Gill Coliseum Thursday. Arkansas entered the meet plagued by recent injuries including a shoulder problem for Samantha Cortez that began prior to Regionals, limiting her to one event. Junior Cassie Drew suffered a sprained ankle in practice earlier this week and, after trying a landing in the practice session Wednesday, was scratched from the meet. Despite the injury bug, the Gym’Backs saw the return of freshman Alexandra LaChance to the lineup. LaChance suffered a fracture early in the season but was strong enough to vault Thursday. Arkansas opened the meet on floor leading off with a 9.725 from senior all-arounder McQuillin. McQuillin qualified as an all-arounder at last year’s national championship. Senior Loveless was inserted into the floor lineup with the Drew scratch and her country-themed performance scored a 9.275 after stumbling on her first tumbling pass. It was Loveless’ fourth appearance of the year on the floor. Sophomore Mallory Machnik was third up for Arkansas on the floor and opened with a pair of strong tumbling passes as Arkansas continued to settle into the meet routine. Machnik’s performance was rewarded with a 9.750. Junior Rachel Barnett electrified the Arkansas’ faithful with good dancing and high-flying tumbling to score a 9.850, followed by senior Hardman who added a 9.80, in the final floor routine of her career. Sophomore Emily Peacock brought it home scoring a 9.850 giving Arkansas a 48.975 to open the meet. “Our nerves showed a bit early in the meet but I thought we recovered nicely,” said Rene Cook. “Once we got into the routine of the meet I think we really showed that we deserved to be here.” Arkansas sat in second place trailing Georgia after one rotation. The Gym’Backs moved to the vault, an event that has been particularly strong for Arkansas all season. Machnik opened for Arkansas scoring a 9.775 followed by McQuillin’s 9.65 to get Arkansas started. LaChance’s return scored a 9.525 followed by a 9.50 from freshman Breanne Guy. Loveless added a 9.725 and Cortez finished with a 9.10 after stumbling on her landing. Arkansas totaled a 48.225 on the vault and headed to the locker room for the first of two byes with a 97.20 and in second place. While Arkansas waited on the bye four other teams competed and the Gym’Backs fell to sixth after three rotations were complete and all six teams had two events under their belts. The Gym’Backs emerged from the break heading for the uneven bars where McQuillin opened with great landing earning a 9.70 for Arkansas. Hardman’s dynamic routine and stuck landing earned the Buda, Texas, native a 9.70 as well. Senior McLeod turned in one of her best bar routines of the year scoring a 9.750 followed by Barnett’s solid 9.650. Senior bars specialist and the first Arkansas all-Southeastern Conference gymnast, Leigh scored a 9.775 to lead the Gym’Backs. Peacock finished with a team-leading 9.825 bringing Arkansas’ team score to 145.950 with the beam remaining. Traditionally the strongest event for Arkansas, the Gym’Backs kicked things off with a 9.775 from Peacock. McLeod scored a 9.575 and Barnett added a 9.525 for Arkansas. Machnik competed fourth scoring a 9.70 as the Gym’Backs’ scores began to climb. McQuillin scored a 9.70 in the final event of her collegiate career and leaves the program as one of the most decorated and recognized gymnasts at Arkansas. Hardman, the top beam worker during her entire career at Arkansas, put a cap on the evening with a 9.675 closing the season for the Gym’Backs. Nebraska (196.325) emerged as the winner of the first session advancing to the Super Six along with Alabama (196.250) and Utah (196.175). They face the top three teams from the second session for the national title at 9:00 p.m., Central Friday. Individual event winners and all-arounders compete Saturday evening. The NCAA Championship meet will air tape delayed on CBS Saturday, May 6, at noon Central. For more information about Arkansas gymnastics please log on to LADYBACKS.COM.



Sports Category : Gymnastics (W)