FAYETTEVILLE – No. 6 Arkansas closes its regular season at home on Friday when the gymnastics team takes on No. 2 Oklahoma at 7 p.m. in Barnhill Arena.
Friday is also Senior Night as Amy DeFilippo, Casey Jo Magee and Sarah Nagashima compete in Fayetteville for the last time.
The Razorbacks have posted scores of 196 or better in four straight meets and moved up in the national rankings from No. 8 to No. 6. Arkansas has posted three of its all-time top five scores this season, including last week’s 196.875 in the home win over No. 40 Pittsburgh.
"That was a great step for us," co-head coach René Cook says. "We came in really focused on hitting all 24 routines cleanly. It was a great performance and helped us move into the top six, and that’s where we want to be going into the post-season."
Oklahoma is the highest ranked team to visit Barnhill this year. The Razorbacks are 4-0-1 at home this season with a tie against No. 11 LSU, and wins over No. 12 Kentucky, No. 16 Auburn and No. 20 Arizona.
Oklahoma leads the all-time series 4-1, but Arkansas got its win in last year’s most recent meeting. The Razorbacks, ranked No. 8 at the time, upset No. 7 OU in Norman, 196.900-195.625.
The Sooners returned 10 letterwinners and one All-American from last year’s team, which won the Big 12 and finished 12th in the nation. OU has been ranked as high as No. 1 this year.
Oklahoma is the ninth top 25 team Arkansas has faced this season, following No. 3 Alabama, No. 8 Florida, No. 9 Georgia, No. 11 LSU, No. 12 Kentucky, No. 16 Auburn, No. 20 Arizona and No. 22 Minnesota.
"If we can compete with Oklahoma on Friday, we will be competing with everyone else in the country," Cook says of getting a high score and staying in the top six. "We’ve had exciting competitions with them the last couple of years, and the series gives us an opportunity to better both programs."
The Razorbacks have been in the top 10 all season and are ranked in the top 10 in all four individual events in the same week for the first time this year. Arkansas is No. 7 on beam, tied for No. 9 on floor, tied for No. 10 on vault and No. 10 on bars.
"I think both teams want to perform well, but I think both are focused on the post-season," Cook says. "We’re trying to set ourselves up for the best seeding possible in the NCAA Regional."
DeFilippo, Magee and Nagashima have combined to lead the Razorbacks to NCAA Regional appearances the last three years, into the NCAA Championship the last two years and to the NCAA Super Six with a fifth-place national finish last season.
DeFilippo has been named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll, to the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches/Women Academic Team and has six individual event career victories.
"Amy is outstanding," Cook says. "She’s been a mainstay on bars and beam, and her leadership has been remarkable. She’s always helping others and is a super good person."
Magee is a two-year All-American, an All-SEC selection, and three-time SEC Gymnast of the Week selection, has been named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll, holds school records in the all-around, on beam and on floor, has been ranked No. 1 in the nation on beam and has 63 career individual event titles.
"I’m not sure what you can say other than she’s phenomenal," Cook says. "She’s so talented and has such passion for the sport. She’s a great teammate and role model."
Nagashima is an All-American, finished third on beam at last year’s NCAA individual event finals, has been named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll and to the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches/Women Academic Team, designed leotards the Razorbacks have worn in competition and has five individual event career victories.
"From inside the team, I can tell you Sarah is the heart and soul of the team," Cook says. "She’s tough and fierce. She’s a competitor and loving at the same time."
Manager Ashley Binns is also being recognized.
"Without her, I’m not sure any of us would know what to do," Cook says. "You need people like her behind the scenes."
Following this week’s meet, the Razorbacks head to Jacksonville, Fla., for next week’s SEC Championship. NCAA regionals are April 10. Regional sites are in Lexington, Ky., Salt Lake City, Utah, University Park, Penn., Columbia, Mo., Morgantown, W.V., and Los Angeles. The NCAA Championship is April 22-24 in Gainesville, Fla.
Promotions for Friday’s meet include water bottles sponsored by Spine Sports Rehab Chiropractic Center, American Heart Association Night, a Dell Notebook drawing with everyone in attendance eligible, a 23-inch Samsung LCD TV giveaway to a UA student, the 100-Year Fan of the Year drawing before the meet and Civil Service/Military Night in which anyone with a badge, civil service ID (police, fire fighters, EMT, etc.) or military ID are admitted for $1.