FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas’ second-ranked gymnastics team is home for two meets this weekend, entertaining No. 13 Auburn on Friday at 7 p.m. and No. 5 Oklahoma on Sunday at 2 p.m. in Barnhill Arena.
Arkansas was No. 1 in the nation last week but is No. 2 this week.
"I’ll take No. 2 any day of the week," co-head coach Mark Cook says. "We want to get back to No. 1 again. Scores will go up and down with the ebb and flow of the season, but to be at No. 2 is fantastic and shows we’re hanging tough."
Despite the slip in the rankings, the Razorbacks are coming off a solid performance at now-No. 3 Florida, scoring a 196.700 for the ninth-best score in program history and the third-best for a road meet.
"We competed very well," co-head coach Rene Cook says. "We had a few minor things here and there, but for the most part we fought really hard. We were consistent and scored well, and that gives us a lot of confidence going into these two meets."
In the events, Arkansas is No. 1 in the country on bars, No. 2 on floor, No. 6 on vault and No. 7 on beam. The 49.30 on bars at Florida ties for the fourth-best in team history while the 49.05 on beam is a season high.
"I’m most impressed with our consistency and our high level of performance," Rene says. "It’s exciting to be in the top three. Our ultimate goal is to be in the top six at the end of the year. The girls are excited to be second in the country and they are on cloud nine after our performance. The pride and confidence they have based on our consistent performance is cool to see."
The Razorbacks are led by two No. 1-ranked individuals and a third ranked second in two events.
Senior All-American Jaime Pisani is No. 1 in the country on floor with an average score of 9.925. She has two 9.95s this year, tying her school record. Senior Mariah Howdeshell is No. 1 in the nation on bars with an average score of 9.90. She has two 9.925s this season, matching the third-best scores in school history.
Sophomore All-American Katherine Grable is No. 2 in the all-around and No. 2 on beam. She has an average beam score of 9.906 with a school-record tying 9.95 and an average all-around score of 39.506, including a school-record 39.725.
Howdeshell and Pisani are just the second and third Razorbacks to earn No. 1 rankings. Former All-American Casey Jo Magee was No. 1 on beam for three weeks in 2010.
"Mariah has learned a new dismount and that has been a key to her success, and Jaime is just awesome," Mark says. "Katherine is the second-best kid in the country in the all-around after four meets and that’s amazing."
This weekend marks the only two-meet weekend of the season for the Razorbacks.
"Once in a while we’ll schedule meets back-to-back to mimic the national championship," Rene says. "It’s hard physically and emotionally. We took an extra day off this week and paced them differently. We want consistency, to hit our routines, to get a little better in some areas and to be more aggressive."
Arkansas’ lineup last week included junior All-American Amy Borsellino, junior All-American Kelci Lewis, junior Jordan Salsberg, sophomore Scarlett Williams, Pisani and Grable on vault. On bars, Salsberg led off, followed by freshman Stephani Canizaro, Grable, Pisani, sophomore Shelby Salmon and Howdeshell. Salsberg also led off on beam, followed by Salmon, Williams, Pisani, Lewis and Grable. On floor, sophomore Bailee Zumwald went first, followed by Borsellino, Salsberg, Lewis, Grable and Pisani.
Arkansas leads the Auburn series 10-8 and has won three of the last four meetings.
"Auburn is very good," Rene says. "They are doing very well and have been very consistent. We can’t have a mistake and beat them. We need a strong performance."
Both meets this week are being televised for tape-delayed broadcasts. The Auburn meet airs on Fox Sports Net, Fox Sports Southwest in Arkansas, on Feb. 11 at 8 p.m. The Oklahoma meet airs on Cox Sports Television on Feb. 12 at 5 p.m.