FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The University of Arkansas women’s gymnastics team put a cap on the 2015 season on Friday night, as they held their annual award presentation at the Chancellor Hotel in Fayetteville.
Along with the award presentation, the night featured, a season recap from head coach Mark Cook, a highlight video, a Q & A session with season ticket holders and closed with final remarks from seniors Cailee Ellsworth and Stephani Canizaro. The Razorback coaching staff handed out six awards on the night, which included the Scholar-Athlete Award, the Most Improved Gymnast, the Most Consistent Gymnast, the Most Outstanding Newcomer, the Most Outstanding Gymnast and the Katie Hardman Gym’Back Pride Award.
Sophomore Paris Ryder won the first award of the evening with her Scholar-Athlete Award honor. Despite sitting the year out due to injury, Ryder was still able to achieve greatness in the classroom as she posted the team’s highest grade point average during the 2014-15 year. It is the second-straight year that the Dix Hills, New York native has won the Scholar-Athlete honor.
Junior Heather Elswick captured the team’s Most Improved Gymnast honor. It was a spectacular 2015 season for the Austin, Texas native was named to the All-SEC team and set a career-best in all three events she competed in. She collected a personal-best 9.950 on the vault and a 9.925 in the floor exercise against No. 6 Alabama and a 9.725 on the uneven bars against No. 23 Missouri.
Junior Sydnie Dillard captured her second consecutive Most Consistent Gymnast Award after counting on all of her routines in 2015. The Fairview, Texas native was a mainstay in the balance beam and floor exercise rotations and she counted on all 24 of her routines. In fact, Dillard has counted her score on every routine of her career.
Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year Paige Zaziski won the Most Outstanding Newcomer Award. It was truly an outstanding season for the Chesterfield Township, Michigan native as tied the program record on the uneven bars with a 9.950 against No. 8 UCLA. The performance not only tied the program record on the bars, but was also the highest score by a freshman in the event in school history. Zaziski was named the SEC Freshman of the Week a program-best three times and won a total of seven event titles.
All-American Amanda Wellick was named the Most Outstanding Gymnast of the 2015 season. The Wheaton, Illinois native was named a NACGA Second-Team Regular-Season All-American on the vault and was selected to the All-SEC team. Wellick won a team-best 15 event titles in 2015, she had just one coming into this season.
Freshman Braie Speed was the Katie Hardman Gym’Back Pride Award recipient. This award goes to the gymnast who demonstrated the most team spirt and embodied the Arkansas gymnastics team pride. Speed, who suffered an injury in preseason and missed all of the 2015 season, was still at most gymnastics meets leading the cheer for her teammates.
Arkansas ended its season back on April 4 with a fourth-place finish at the 2015 NCAA Morgantown Regional. The 2015 season saw the program set the highest floor exercise score in program history, with a 49.600 to upset perennial power Alabama, and had just its second gymnast named to a National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches/Women (NACGC) Regular-Season All-America, as sophomore Amanda Wellick earned Second-Team Regular-Season All-American honors on the vault. Freshman Paige Zaziski also burst onto the scene in 2015, as she became just the second Razorback gymnast to win the SEC Freshman of the Year honors, and she set a pair of program record by winning the SEC Freshman of the Week honors three times, and tied the program’s best mark on the uneven bars with her 9.950 in the regular season finale against No. 8 UCLA.
For more information on the Arkansas women’s gymnastics team, follow @RazorbackGym on Twitter.