FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – After going on the road to open Southeastern Conference action against a top 10 opponent last week, Arkansas’ gymnastics team stays on the road against another SEC opponent, and this time faces a top five team.
The Razorbacks are ranked No. 7 in the nation but travel to Tuscaloosa for a 7:30 p.m. meet against No. 3 Alabama on Friday.
Arkansas opened the year with a home win over No. 20 Arizona, but lost at No. 8 Florida last week. Despite the loss, the Razorbacks posted a solid second-week score of 195.925 in Gainesville to maintain their top 10 ranking.
In the individual events, Arkansas is No. 20 on vault, No. 4 on bars, No. 5 on beam and No. 6 on floor.
In the South Central Regional rankings, the Razorbacks are No. 2 overall, No. 5 on vault, No. 2 on bars, No. 2 on beam and No. 2 on floor.
“We have to get better on vault,” co-head coach René Cook says. “We’ve worked hard the last few days and I expect we’ll be stronger. Everyone is capable of a 9.85 or higher. Last year we started slow and it ended up being our best event.”
The Crimson Tide won the NCAA North Central Regional last year and finished second in the nation while the Razorbacks finished fifth. Alabama returned 14 letterwinners and seven All-Americans from that squad, but Arkansas posted a 196.625-196.525 victory over the Crimson Tide in Fayetteville a year ago.
At Florida, Arkansas recorded three of the top five all-around performances with senior Casey Jo Magee finishing second (39.450), sophomore Jaime Pisani third (39.375) and senior Sarah Nagashima fifth (38.700).
Magee won the individual title on beam with the seventh-best score in school history (9.900) for the 42nd event win of her career. Pisani tied for first on floor with the ninth-best score in school history (9.900) for her 16th career event title.
Pisani also matched her personal best in the all-around with a 39.375 while junior Stacy Bartlett equaled her career best with a 9.750 on floor.
“It was a tough meet,” Cook says. “The pace was fast and we showed maturity. We handled ourselves well.”
The Alabama meet is being televised by Fox Sports Net and will be aired on a tape-delay broadcast. In Arkansas, the broadcast airs on Fox Sports Southwest on Jan. 30 at 8 p.m.
Following the Alabama trip, Arkansas returns to Barnhill Arena to face Kentucky on Jan. 29 at 7 p.m.