HONOLULU, Hawai’i – The 20th-ranked University of Arkansas gymnastics team officially opens the 2006 season with a six-team meet at Kailua High School in Honolulu, Hawai’i, Tuesday. The Gym’Backs, celebrating the program’s fourth season of competition and first-ever senior class, jumps right into the heat facing No. 3 UCLA, No. 13 Oregon State and No. 18 Washington in the opener. California and Sacramento State are also competing and both programs are getting votes in the preseason poll. “According to some polls, we have the sixth-hardest schedule in the country,” said co-head coach Mark Cook. “Our philosophy is to be the best, you have to compete against the best.” The Gym’Backs enter the meet with their first-ever senior class. The five original gymnasts are Katie Hardman, Melissa Leigh, Audra Loveless, Hannah McLeod and Dana McQuillin and all will be looked upon to lead this talented team. “There’s an air of maturity this year,” noted co-head coach Rene Cook. “Everyone is very supportive of each other and we have been doing a lot of the little things right so far.” In addition to the talented senior class, Arkansas has a pair of juniors in Rachel Barnett and Cassie Drew who will be heavily relied upon. “There is a huge difference between this year’s team and my first year,” said Drew. “The skill level is 100 percent improved. Our energy level is high. We’ve always been a close group but now to have four classes and still be this close is really special.” Arkansas has had a long week on the island. The Gym’Backs arrived in Hawai’i in the early afternoon of Dec. 30, and have been training at a local club prior to the meet. Arkansas competes Tuesday and gets a final day in a the gym before returning home. The Gym’Backs first meet is also the first of three consecutive road meets as they travel to No.16 Missouri Jan. 13, and top-ranked and defending national champion Georgia Jan. 20. Arkansas opens at home hosting No. 7 LSU Jan. 27. For more information about Arkansas gymnastics, please log on to LADYBACKS.COM.