FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas is headed to Los Angeles for the NCAA West Regional, the Razorbacks learned on Monday.
Arkansas is ranked No. 9 in the nation. The rest of the regional includes No. 3 UCLA, No. 17 Iowa State, No. 21 Arizona, No. 26 Brigham Young and No. 32 Arizona State.
This is Arkansas’ eighth season for gymnastics and the Razorbacks have now earned an NCAA Regional bid seven times, every season with the exception of the first in 2003.
"It’s an accomplishment, but it’s a door you go through to get to the next room, which is competing for the national championship," co-head coach Mark Cook says. "We welcome the opportunity to go through that door and realize some of our season goals."
The Razorbacks have advanced out of regionals and into the NCAA Championship three times, including each of the last two seasons. They reached the NCAA Super Six for the first time last year and finished fifth in the country.
"We are extremely excited to be going to Los Angeles," co-head coach René Cook says. "We competed there two years ago and it was a successful trip. Half of our team is from the West Coast. We’re excited about competing and trying to qualify for the NCAA Championship."
"We’re very excited about the seeding," Mark Cook says. "We know the university and the area, and we were there a couple years ago. It’s my home state, so I’m happy to be going there."
This is Arkansas’ first regional in Los Angeles, but the Razorbacks have competed at UCLA twice. Arkansas lost at No. 5 UCLA in 2003 and No. 12 Arkansas topped the No. 9 Bruins in 2008.
"We’ve seen UCLA several times in the regular and post-season," René Cook says. "These are strong teams, as you would expect. Our goal is to be in the top two to make it to the national championship."
Against the regional field, the Razorbacks have an all-time record of 3-3 against UCLA, 0-1 against Iowa State, 3-2 against Arizona, 1-0 against BYU and 2-1 against Arizona State.
Arkansas opened the season with a 195.400-192.650 home victory over Arizona and the Razorbacks beat No. 9 UCLA in last year’s NCAA Session II, 196.950-196.625, to advance to the NCAA Super Six.
"Arizona and Arizona State are from our region, and Iowa State is the third seed," Mark Cook says. "All the programs are competitive. We have to do our job and go from there."
The Cooks are familiar with the UCLA program, having coached at Stanford from 1998-2001 before starting the Arkansas program. Mark Cook was also an assistant at UCLA from 1994-97, helping the program win the 1997 national championship.
"There’s a comfort level for me," Mark Cook says. "We both lived there for a while and we know our way around. It makes it easier for us. It’s an area we can go and enjoy. It’s a great venue and they will have a good crowd."
Overall, Arkansas is No. 9 in the nation and has been in the top 10 all year. In the individual events, the Razorbacks are No. 9 on beam, No. 11 on vault, No. 12 on floor and No. 13 on bars.
The North Central Region in Salt Lake City, Utah, includes Florida, host Utah, Auburn, Boise State, Denver and Washington. The South Central Region in Columbia, Mo., includes Georgia, Oregon State, host Missouri, Minnesota, Iowa and North Carolina. The Central Region in Lexington, Ky., includes Alabama, Nebraska, Illinois, host Kentucky, Central Michigan and Michigan State. The Northeast Regional in University Park, Pa., includes Oklahoma, LSU, host Penn State, Maryland, Ohio State and New Hampshire. The Southeast Region in Morgantown, W.V., includes Stanford, Michigan, Southern Utah, North Carolina State, Kent State and host West Virginia.
The NCAA Championship is April 22-24 in Gainesville, Fla.