FAYETTEVILLE — The No. 24 University of Arkansas gymnastics team officially opens the 2005 season traveling to Minneapolis, Minn., for dual meet action with the Gophers Saturday, Jan. 8, at 7:00 p.m. The Gym’Backs recently learned that they were ranked 24th by the GymInfo Coaches Poll to start the year and co-head coaches Mark and Rene Cook are anxious to defend that ranking. "We are very excited to get to the season," said Mark Cook. "We feel very prepared and we’re anxious to go out and start performing. Our goal is to go into Minnesota and do well." "Minnesota has a stronger team that last year," added Rene Cook, "but then so do we. They have a couple athletes back who were injured last year but we’re a year older and more mature as well. They compete in an intimate facility and their meets are always well organized. It will challenge us right away." The Gym’Backs return a solid corps from last year’s NCAA Regional team including five juniors — the team’s first upperclassmen in the program’s history. Arkansas has faced Minnesota once before in the two-year history of the Gym’Back program, downing Minnesota in Barnhill Arena to open the 2004 season. The Gophers also reached the NCAA Regionals last year and are getting votes in this year’s preseason poll. Minnesota is just the first of a top-notch schedule for Arkansas. The Gym’Backs begin the year with three consecutive road meets following up the trip to the Land of 10,000 Lakes with trips to Kentucky and Auburn as Southeastern Conference action gets underway. "We’ve tried to take it up a notch," said Mark Cook. "We’ve increased out difficulty on all four events. It’s harder to be as consistent when you’re making those changes but we’re shooting to be one of the top teams in the SEC and the nation. Those are the steps we have to take. We’re doing more major releases on bars, more three flight series on beam and more Yurchenko vaults. That gives us a higher start value and more opportunity for bigger scores." The Gym’Backs return to Barnhill Arena hosting NCAA runner-up Georgia in SEC action Friday, Jan. 28. For more information and tickets please call the Lady Razorback Ticket Office at 57-LBACK or log on to LADYBACKS.COM.