ATHENS, Ga. – The 11th-ranked University of Arkansas gymnastics team went through its final practice in Stegeman Coliseum on the eve of the 2008 NCAA Championships in Athens, Ga., Wednesday.
Arkansas advanced to the national championship for the second time in the six-year history of the program opening the meet in the first session Thursday at 12:00 p.m.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled,” said Arkansas co-head coach René Cook. “We’re excited about our session and the draw. We’ve been to Georgia before and feel comfortable with the setting and the teams we compete with.”
Arkansas opens the meet on bars, the same rotation the Gym’Backs faced in the NCAA Regional two weeks ago to qualify for the NCAA Championship. Also competing in the first session is No. 3 Florida, No. 4 Alabama, No. 7 LSU, No. 8 Oregon State and No. 10 Oklahoma.
Arkansas has faced all but Oregon State this season.
The Gym’Backs are looking to build on a very successful NCAA Regional performance. Arkansas had solid marks on bars and beam but stepped up big on floor and tied the school record on vault to advance.
“Regionals were amazing,” said co-head coach Mark Cook. “We stuck ever landing. We are going into nationals with the goal of being top 10 in the country and of having an individual on the podium to earn all-America honors. This program continues to get better and better and that’s our next step.”
Arkansas certainly has its hands full in meeting those goals. The Gym’Backs must first finish in the top three in their session to advance to the Super Six Friday. The top individuals advance to the finals Saturday.
Should Arkansas advance out of its session, it will face three teams from the second session which includes top-ranked and host Georgia, No. 2 Utah, No. 5 Michigan, No. 6 Stanford, No. 9 UCLA and No. 13 Denver.
But Arkansas is no stranger to the meet or the teams. The 2008 NCAA Championship is the second time in three seasons the Gym’Backs have made it to the Big Dance.
“That first season was like a fairy tale,” said René Cook. “You couldn’t have scripted a movie any better. It was magic. This is different. We set this as a goal and really went after it. We went into regionals as the team to beat.”
“We wanted to do this on our own,” added Mark Cook. “We didn’t want to have someone hand this to us, we wanted to earn it and we did.”
The NCAA Championship will conclude the 2008 season for Arkansas gymnastics. For more information regarding Razorback gymnastics or University of Arkansas athletics please visit www.LADYBACKS.com.