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No. 8 Arkansas at No. 22 Minnesota

BY ANDRES FOCIL
No. 8 Arkansas at No. 22 Minnesota

FAYETTEVILLE – After posting its best road score of the season last week, Arkansas’ eighth-ranked gymnastics team is on the road again this week, this time for a 6 p.m. dual meet at Minnesota on Saturday.

The Razorbacks totaled a 196.075 in last week’s tri-meet victory over Washington and Seattle Pacific in Seattle.

"We need to limit some deductions, but the girls kept a good attitude," co-head coach Mark Cook says. "It’s important that we go to Minnesota and perform well."

"We improved on floor immensely," co-head coach René Cook says. "I thought that was our best rotation of the year."

Individually, Arkansas is led by senior All-American Casey Jo Magee, who is ranked No. 1 in the nation on beam and No. 6 as an all-arounder. Magee is the first Razorback to earn a No. 1 ranking.

"It’s exciting," René Cook says. "She’s great on all four events, but she’s exceptional on beam. She has confidence and calmness. It’s a unique challenge to be on a four-inch wide piece of wood four feet off the ground. Her approach is almost therapeutic."

Sophomore All-American Jaime Pisani is No. 11 in the all-around and No. 8 on floor. Senior All-American Sarah Nagashima, who won the first all-around title of her career last week in her hometown of Seattle, is ranked No. 30 in the all-around.

"That was so cool," René Cook says of Nagashima’s all-around title. "She is essential to the success of our program."

Magee has 15 individual event wins this year, including two at Washington, and 56 for her career. Pisani has 13 wins this season, including two last week, and 26 for her career.

Minnesota is ranked No. 22 in the nation and is the eighth ranked opponent of the season for the Razorbacks. Arkansas has faced No. 3 Alabama, No. 8 Florida, No. 9 Georgia, No. 11 LSU, No. 12 Kentucky, No. 16 Auburn and No. 20 Arizona.

Minnesota was fourth in the NCAA North Central Regional last year.

Arkansas leads the all-time series 4-0. The Razorbacks claimed wins in Fayetteville in 2004 and Minneapolis in 2005. In 2008, Arkansas topped the Golden Gophers in the NCAA North Central Regional and advanced to the NCAA Championship. Last year in Barnhill Arena, No. 12 Arkansas posted a 196.450-195.725 victory over No. 18 Minnesota.

"The last time we were there was for regionals two years ago," René Cook says. "We’re excited about going back."

In 2008, No. 11 Arkansas finished second in the regional behind No. 2 Utah, and ahead of No. 28 Minnesota, No. 14 Arizona, No. 27 Southern Utah and No. 23 Iowa.

Arkansas was 4-0 against members of the Big Ten last year and 4-1 in 2008 for an 8-1 mark over the last two seasons. The Razorbacks have not faced a Big Ten team this season.

Following the Minnesota meet, Arkansas returns home to close out the regular season with two straight meets in Barnhill Arena. Pittsburgh visits Fayetteville on March 12 while the Razorbacks host Oklahoma on March 19.



Sports Category : Gymnastics (W)