FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas’ gymnastics team is coming off its third top 10 national finish in four years and the Razorbacks enter the 2012 season knocking on the door to another top 10 ranking by beginning the year at No. 11 in the GymInfo preseason poll released on Thursday.
Arkansas is a fixture on the national scene with seven consecutive top 15 national finishes.
"Obviously preseason rankings are just a start," co-head coachRené Cook says. "With the confidence this team gained last season along with the maturity, increased degree of difficulty and overall improvement, we look forward to the opportunity to improve upon that ranking each week of the season."
The 2012 squad is led by 11 returning letterwinners, including All-Americans Jaime Pisani, Katherine Grable, Amy Borsellino and Kelci Lewis.
Pisani, a senior and the 2011 South Central Regional Gymnast of the Year, is the school record-holder with nine career All-America honors. In 2012, she was first-team on floor, and second-team on beam and in the all-around. Grable, a sophomore, became the first freshman to earn first-team All-America honors a year ago. She was first-team on floor and second-team on vault. Borsellino, a junior, was first-team on vault and Lewis, a junior, was second-team on floor.
Borsellino, Grable and Pisani also advanced to the NCAA individual event finals last season. Pisani tied for fifth on floor, Grable placed ninth on floor and Borsellino was 15th on vault.
"The preseason rankings are based on NCAA participating coaches’ opinions," co-head coach Mark Cook says. "Coaches are not always aware of the exact gains and losses of personnel within certain programs, and therefore they are just that – opinions. I am somewhat surprised that after finishing ninth at the NCAA National Championship last year that our peers have ranked us 11th. We will just have to wait and see if those predictions come true, but best of luck to everyone this season."
Other returning letterwinners are senior Mariah Howdeshell, sophomore Shelby Salmon, junior Jordan Salsberg, senior Genny Salvatore, junior Amanda Siebert, sophomore Scarlett Williams and sophomore Bailee Zumwalde.
The newcomers are freshmen Stephanie Canizaro of Nesbit, Miss., and Sammy Kolbas of Naperville, Ill.
The Razorbacks get a chance to earn their ranking early and often with a typical challenging schedule.
Arkansas opens the season Jan. 6 at the Cancun Classic in Mexico, competing against No. 19 Arizona, No. 17 Auburn, No. 25 Iowa, No. 12 LSU and San Jose State, which is receiving votes.
The home opener is Jan. 13 against No. 23 Kentucky.
The inaugural team from 2003 will be honored the following week on Jan. 20 when the Razorbacks host No. 12 LSU.
The rest of the home schedule includes meets against No. 17 Auburn, No. 4 Oklahoma, No. 6 Nebraska and No. 22 Minnesota. Road meets are at No. 3 Florida, No. 9 Georgia, No. 2 Alabama, and West Virginia and Missouri, which are both receiving votes.
The SEC Championship is March 24 in Duluth, Ga.
Arkansas is hosting the NCAA South Central Regional for the third time with the six-team meet set for April 7 in Barnhill Arena.
The NCAA Championship is April 20-22 in Duluth, Ga.
Season tickets are now on sale. Reserved season tickets are $40. Youth (18 and under) reserved season tickets are $15. A family pack, which includes two adult and two youth tickets for all six meets, is $75. All family pack seating is on the north side of Barnhill Arena.
Tickets for the NCAA South Central Regional are separate from season tickets, but available for $10 for adults and $5 for youth. A family pack is also available for $25.
Tickets can be purchased by calling the ticket office at 800-982-HOGS (4647) or 479-575-5151. They can also be purchased at ArkansasRazorbacks.com and at the link below.
Arkansas’ gymnastics program is in its 10th season. In nine years, the Razorbacks have earned eight NCAA regional bids, won two NCAA regionals, advanced to the NCAA Championship five times, reached the NCAA Super Six, finished in the top 10 in the nation three times, finished ranked in the top 15 seven consecutive seasons, and produced 28 All-America selections and 13 NCAA individual event finals appearances.
In 2011, the Razorbacks tied for the Southeastern Conference regular-season championship, won the NCAA North Central Regional, tied for ninth in the nation, recorded two wins over No. 1-ranked Florida, beat No. 4 Georgia, and set school records with seven dual-meet wins and four road wins.
Of the teams in this year’s preseason poll, Arkansas recorded victories last year over No. 3 Florida, No. 9 Georgia, No. 12 LSU, No. 14 Boise State, No. 15 Illinois, No. 17 Auburn, No. 19 Arizona, No. 20 Denver and No. 23 Kentucky.
Purchase Season Tickets
GymInfo Preseason Rankings
First Place Votes
Other team receiving votes: Missouri, Central Michigan, North Carolina State, Arizona State, Southern Utah, West Virginia, North Carolina, BYU, Western Michigan, Michigan State, Utah State, Illinois State, New Hampshire, Maryland-College Park, San Jose State, Pittsburgh, California, UIC, Northern Illinois, Rutgers