FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas’ gymnastics team steps outside Southeastern Conference action, where the No. 12 Razorbacks have won four straight, to entertain No. 28 Brigham Young on Friday at 7 p.m. in Barnhill Arena.
Friday is also Arkansas’ first home "Pink Meet" for gymnastics. Both teams will be wearing pink, and in recognition of breast cancer awareness, anyone who wears pink will be admitted for $1.
"This is a breast cancer awareness meet," co-head coach René Cook says. "We’ve never hosted one. It’s a way to increase awareness. The girls will be wearing pink and our fans are encouraged to wear pink as well. Our coaches association is pretty passionate about supporting it in generating awareness."
The Razorbacks are 4-2 overall and 4-1 in the SEC. In the last two weeks, Arkansas has recorded its first-ever victory over Georgia, beating the No. 4 Gym Dogs in its last home meet on Feb. 4, and last week recorded its first-ever victory in Baton Rouge, La., with a win at No. 19 LSU.
"We tell the team the whole meet will not go great," co-head coach Mark Cook says. "The team that weathers the storm will prevail. We didn’t do that the first two weeks of the year, but now one of our biggest assets is that we are competing to win. We want to go out this week with confidence and do what we’ve trained to do."
BYU is the seventh top 30 opponent in seven weeks for the Razorbacks.
In the individual events, Arkansas is No. 14 in the country on vault, No. 20 on bars, tied for No. 16 on beam and No. 6 on floor.
BYU is No. 31 on vault, tied for No. 18 on bars, No. 27 on beam and No. 34 on floor.
"Our scoring has been fine, but not outstanding," René Cook says. "But at the same time, there’s something to be said for beating the teams we’re on the floor with. If we can clean up a little more, we will be fine. If we can raise our scores a half-tenth, that’s a full point for the team and we’re looking forward to the challenge."
Arkansas leads the all-time series 2-0. The two teams met just last season in the NCAA West Regional at UCLA. No. 9 Arkansas finished second and advanced to its fourth NCAA Championship, including its third straight, with 196.675 points. No. 26 BYU finished sixth with 193.40 points.
In the only other meeting, the teams met in a quad meet at Utah in 2007 with the No. 13 Razorbacks recording a 193.625-192.60 decision over BYU.
Individually, Arkansas is led by junior All-American Jaime Pisani. Ranked No. 5 in the nation on floor and No. 12 in the all-around, she has 11 individual event titles this year, including four all-around wins in the last five weeks. In the South Central Region, she is first on floor and second in the all-around.
In last week’s win at LSU, Pisani won floor with a 9.90 and junior Mariah Howdeshell won the first event title of her career with a 9.825 on bars.
Junior Genny Salvatore, who missed the first two years of her career with two surgeries on each knee, competed for the first time in her career and tied for second with a 9.80 on bars. She is ranked No. 41 in the nation and No. 4 in the South Central Region.
"She’s a special young lady," Mark Cook says. "It touches your heart when you see someone overcome obstacles like that. We wanted her to be done after her last surgery last year, but she said she didn’t want to be done. Her parents were speechless after she competed."
"She’s probably rehabbed harder than anyone I’ve ever seen," René Cook says. "To see her go out and stick her dismount and place in the top three in her first competition is a true testament to her willpower and desire."
Last week’s lineup included sophomore Kelci Lewis, sophomore Jordan Salsberg, freshman Scarlett Williams, Pisani, freshman Katherine Grable and Howdeshell on vault. On bars, Salsberg was followed by Salvatore, Pisani, senior All-American Michelle Stout, freshman Shelby Salmon and Howdeshell.
On beam, Williams was followed by Pisani, Salsberg, Salmon, Grable and senior Stacy Bartlett. Freshman Bailee Zumwalde led off on floor and was followed by Salsberg, Bartlett, Lewis, Grable and Pisani.