FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas’ gymnastics team puts the highest ranking in program history on the line Friday when the No. 3 Razorbacks visit defending national champion and ninth-ranked Georgia in Athens.
Arkansas set a school record by scoring 197.025 points in last week’s win over No. 16 Auburn, and in the process moved up from No. 7 to No. 3 in the nation. That ranking matches the best in UA history. The Razorbacks were No. 3 for one week during the 2009 season before finishing fifth in the nation.
The school record score came a week after Arkansas had the high score in the nation of 196.750 in a win over No. 12 Kentucky.
“That just shows the heart of this team and their determination,” co-head coach René Cook says. “Everyone stepped up and had a great attitude.”
“We performed very loose,” co-head coach Mark Cook says. “We had better leadership and execution. The challenge now is to take it on the road and not get distracted.”
Georgia went 32-1 a year ago, won the national championship, the Southeastern Conference and the NCAA Southeast Regional. Ten letterwinners and three All-Americans returned for first-year head coach Jay Clark.
“We’re expecting a tough meet,” René Cook says. “They are coming off their best meet of the year. We need to show some toughness, be relaxed and stay focused.”
Georgia leads the all-time series 16-0. Twelve of the meetings have been matchups of top 20 teams, including the last nine. In six of the meetings, Georgia has been ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 in the country.
Last year in Fayetteville, No. 3 Georgia posted a 196.925-196.725 victory over No. 7 Arkansas.
“They have veterans and tradition,” Mark Cook says. “It will be tough, but we are comparable to them.”
Arkansas features three of the top 15 all-arounders in the country. Arkansas and Alabama are the only schools in the nation with three ranked among the top 15. Sophomore Jaime Pisani is No. 9, senior Casey Jo Magee is No. 10 and senior Amy DeFilippo is No. 14.
Magee set a school record with a 39.625 all-around score last week, winning the all-around, bars and beam titles, and tying Pisani for the floor title. Pisani had a 39.525 all-around score in the Kentucky meet, which tied the previous school record. She has two all-around titles this year and nine overall. DeFilippo had a career-high 39.225 all-around score against Kentucky.
In the record-setting Auburn meet, senior Sarah Nagashima scored a career-best 39.350 in the all-around. Magee tied the school record with a 9.95 on beam and matched the second-best mark of 9.925 on bars while Pisani equaled the second-best score of 9.95 on vault.
The record, and the outcome of the meet, came down to the final performance of the night when Springdale freshman Amanda Siebert posted a 9.80 on floor.
“It gives you respect,” Mark Cook says of the ranking. “Now we have to stay there.”
“The girls are excited about being in the top three,” René Cook says. “Now we have to get a good road score.”
The Razorbacks are 3-2 this year and Georgia marks the sixth straight opponent ranked in the top 20. Arkansas has wins over No. 20 Arizona, No. 12 Kentucky and No. 16 Auburn, and losses at No. 8 Florida and at No. 3 Alabama.