FAYETTEVILLE – With the start of the 2011 season less than a month away, Arkansas co-head coaches Mark and René Cook got a preview of what to expect by sending their nationally-ranked gymnastics team through a practice meet in Barnhill Arena on Friday.
The Razorbacks, who are ranked No. 11 in the pre-season after finishing 11th in the 2010 NCAA Championship, went through a full meet-like workout. Judges scored each routine and the meet was open to the public, so fans in the stands gave the young team a taste of what to expect during the season.
"We were able to get our feet wet tonight and work out some cobwebs," Mark Cook said. "We performed a lot of new routines and showed a lot of our depth."
Arkansas is led by two returning All-Americans in junior Jaime Pisani and senior Michelle Stout, who missed all of 2010 with an injury. Other returnees are senior Stacy Bartlett, juniors Mariah Howdeshell and Genny Salvatore, and sophomores Natalie Bohonsky, Amy Borsellino, Kelci Lewis and Amanda Siebert.
Five newcomers are on the roster, including sophomore transfer Jordan Salsberg from Southeast Missouri State, and freshmen Katherine Grable, Shelby Salmon, Scarlett Williams and Bailee Zumwalde.
The Razorbacks opened with Howdeshell, Salsberg, Pisani, Salmon, Stout, Lewis, Salvatore, Grable, Zumwalde and Bohonsky all competing on bars, in that order. Following bars, Siebert, Howdeshell, Grable, Salsberg, Pisani, Stout and Lewis were on vault. On floor, Siebert was followed by Zumwalde, Bartlett, Salsberg, Lewis, Grable and Pisani. The last event was beam with a lineup of Pisani, Bartlett, Howdeshell, Salsberg, Grable, Salmon and Zumwalde.
"This practice meet helps because a lot of the girls aren’t used to this format," Cook said. "We have some work to do to fine-tune our routines, but they all performed their skills confidently."
The Razorbacks open the season on Jan. 7 at No. 4 Oklahoma. The home opener is Jan. 14 against No. 2 Alabama.