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Gym’Backs go West for NCAA Championship

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Gym’Backs go West for NCAA Championship

FAYETTEVILLE — The long wait is over and the 18th-ranked University of Arkansas gymnastics team makes the program’s first appearance at the NCAA Championship in Corvallis, Ore., Thursday. Arkansas, wrapping up its fourth season of gymnastics, became one of the final 12 teams competing this week after a second-place finish at the South Central Regional in Barnhill April 8. "We’re going to nationals – I just keep saying that over and over," said co-head coach Rene Cook. "There is not a word out there to describe the emotion that we’re all feeling." Arkansas opens in the evening session Thursday facing Georgia, Iowa State, Oregon State, Florida and Arizona State with the top three teams advancing out of the first round. The advancing teams join the top three teams from the first session (Oklahoma, Nebraska, Michigan, Utah, LSU and Alabama) for the championship on Friday. Individual championships are Saturday. "We’re happy to be in the night session," said co-head coach Mark Cook. "There is much more of a crowd and the excitement seems to be better. This is just such a great experience and we are really looking forward to it." Arkansas enters the meet as the underdog as the program’s first senior class has guided the Gym’Backs from a start up to a contender. Seniors Katie Hardman, Melissa Leigh, Audra Loveless, Hannah McLeod and Dana McQuillin compete in their final meet in the Cardinal and White this weekend. Top-ranked Georgia is the favorite in the meet but the Bulldogs will have their hands full with one of the toughest fields this year. No. 2 Utah, No. 3 Florida, No. 4 Iowa State, No. 5 Alabama, No. 6 Oklahoma, No. 7 LSU, No. 9 Michigan, No. 11 Arizona State, No. 12 Nebraska and No. 16 and host Oregon State will all look to challenge for the top places at the meet. "There’s no doubt that the field is strong," said Rene Cook. "But we’re used to that. We compete in the toughest conference for gymnastics and five of the seven SEC teams are at this championship. It’s kind of like going back to the SEC Championship." "Our league prepares us for this type of meet," added Mark Cook. "We’re not intimidated by the opponents because we’re used to competing at this level." Fans can follow live stats for the meet at NCAAsports.com and the meet will air on CBS Saturday, May 6 at noon Central. For more information about Arkansas gymnastics, please log on to LADYBACKS.COM.



Sports Category : Gymnastics (W)