FAYETTEVILLE – No. 8 Arkansas heads to Jacksonville, Fla., this week to compete in the Southeastern Conference gymnastics championship at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
The meet is Saturday at 3 p.m. (Central). ESPN2 airs a tape-delay broadcast on April 4 at 10 a.m.
The Razorbacks have been ranked in the top 10 all season, but as usual, they have plenty of company in the SEC.
Alabama is No. 1, Florida No. 4, Georgia No. 5, LSU No. 10, Auburn No. 15 and Kentucky No. 18.
"Four of the top eight teams in the nation are in the SEC," co-head coach Mark Cook says. "There is some pressure, but it makes you better."
So far this year, Arkansas has faced nine teams ranked in the top 25, eight in the top 20, six in the top 15 and four in the top 10. Following this weekend, those numbers increase to 15 in the top 25, 14 in the top 20, 11 in the top 15 and eight in the top 10.
In addition to the overall ranking, Arkansas is No. 8 on beam, No. 9 on floor, No. 10 on vault and No. 11 on bars.
"It’s important that we compete well and not count mistakes," co-head coach René Cook says. "We need to have a lot of energy and enthusiasm. If we compete well, we can move up in the rankings."
Individually, Arkansas is led by senior All-Americans Casey Jo Magee and Sarah Nagashima, sophomore All-American Jaime Pisani, senior Amy DeFilippo, sophomore Mariah Howdeshell, junior Stacy Bartlett, and freshmen Kelci Lewis and Amanda Siebert.
Magee, a two-time SEC Gymnast of the Week this year who is currently ranked No. 1 in the nation on beam, is the defending SEC beam champion. She is ranked fourth in the nation in the all-around and has broken the school record three times this season. She has 27 individual event titles this season.
Pisani is tied for No. 11 in the nation in the all-around and is No. 8 on vault. She has 17 individual wins this year.
Nagashima has set career highs on floor and in the all-around this year, and matched her highs on bars and beam. DeFilippo has battled a knee injury, but has set career highs on bars, floor and in the all-around. Howdeshell has been consistent on vault, bars and beam while Bartlett has been in the lineup on beam and floor all season. Lewis has competed as an all-around and been in the lineup all season on vault and floor while Siebert, who missed the meet last week, has contributed on vault and floor.
Arkansas had just five competitors in the floor lineup last week against Oklahoma, but the Razorbacks could be back to six this week. DeFilippo, who last competed on floor on Jan. 29 against Kentucky, could be in the rotation on Saturday.
Arkansas was 2-3-1 against the SEC in the regular season, beating Auburn and Kentucky, and tying LSU.
NCAA regionals are April 10. The Central is in Lexington, Ky., the North Central in Salt Lake City, Northeast in University Park, Pa., South Central in Columbia, Mo., Southeast in Morgantown, W.V., and West in Los Angeles.
"The SEC meet prepares us for the post-season better than anything we could script," René Cook says.
Following regionals, the NCAA Championship is April 22-24 in Gainesville, Fla.