FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Just a little more than month into the practice season, Arkansas gymnastics head coach Mark Cook has liked what he was seen from his gymnast as he prepares his team for a challenging 2015 season that opens on Jan. 9, 2015 at defending NCAA Co-Champion, Oklahoma.
Coach Cook reports that practices have been a relatively smooth process this year. His team has been in good spirits throughout their training regiments and the 13-year head man of the Razorbacks has been pleased with the work his girls have put in.
“I feel like we’ve made some great progress over the past month and we are about where we should be,” said the coach. “We are currently formalizing our routines, putting together some choreography on the floor exercise, Coach (Sam) Snider and Coach (Jamie) Pisani have been doing good work on that. We as a staff have been putting routines together and help build the girl’s endurance, and we’ve seen significant improvements in both of those over of the past month.”
When asked about the most improved gymnast from the first day of practice to now, Cook proclaimed without hesitation that it was senior Cailee Ellsworth.
“Last year Cailee saw limited time because of some injuries she was dealing with,” Cook said. “In the summer she really trained hard, improved her strength and that raised her talent level. She has come into practice this year and continued to work hard and it’s really made an impact, especially on the vault.”
Coach Cook has been so impressed with Ellsworth’s progress this season that he has awarded the walk-on with a scholarship for next semester.
Of the newcomers, Cook states that freshman Leah MacMoyle, who came to Arkansas with an injury she endured during her club career, has made great strides in the rehab process and has looked strong in her first month.
The coach added that fellow freshman Braie Speed and Paige Zaziski have been impressive so far and that 2014 NCAA National qualifier Amanda Wellick has become more fundamentally sound since last year, which excites the coach.
Cook has seen a lot balance from his squad and exclaims, as he did before practice began, that the vault will be an area of strength for his team this year. A talented set of freshman join an already solid vault rotation this year and Cook says that he has been impressed with the group over the first month.
With the steady practice regiment, Cook feels that his team is on task as they prepare for a challenging 2015 season.
He says his group is a confident one, but they are well aware of the challenges that face them this season, as they face-off against the elite of the Southeastern Conference, which placed four of the six NCAA Super Six teams, and both NCAA Co-National Champions in Oklahoma and Florida.
“We’ve stuck to our plan throughout this first month, and that is to go to Oklahoma be competitive, hit our routines and be clean. We feel good about our team facing the defending National Champion, and if we go in there and do what we can, then will we be a very competitive team out of the gate.”
Arkansas will open its season traveling to defending NCAA Co-Champion Oklahoma on Jan. 9. The meet from Norman, Okla., is set to begin at 7 p.m.
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