Gym'Backs sixth at SECs move up nationally

Jump to results BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The 19th-ranked University of Arkansas senior class competed in their final Southeastern Conference Championship leading the Gym’Backs to a sixth place showing and potentially moving up in the national rankings with a 194.65 in Birmingham, Ala., Saturday. “While we had to count an error, I thought the team fought really hard and stayed the course tonight,” said co-head coach Rene Cook. “Any time you compete, you want to win but tonight we had other goals as well and I think we helped ourselves a lot in meeting those.” Arkansas’ score will most likely move the Gym’Backs into one of the coveted top 18 spots in the country next week making them a seeded team heading into regionals April 8. “We came into the meet really shooting to move up and I think we did that tonight,” said Cook. “We cant’ wait to host regionals in Barnhill Arena.” The Gym’Backs opened the meet in the second bye position waiting in the wings for their first shot at scoring. Arkansas, in a tight battle with Kentucky as the Gym’Backs tried to unseat the Wildcats in the No. 18 spot nationally, watched as a couple of falls lowered Kentucky’s floor score to open the meet. Arkansas emerged in the gym sporting new leotards but nerves were what were on the Gym’Backs’ mind as a pair of competitors fell on their landings. The Gym’Backs rallied with a 9.775 from sophomore Emily Peacock and a 9.725 from senior all-SEC gymnast Melissa Leigh for a 47.925 on bars. Kentucky held a slight edge over Arkansas after two rotations, 47.975-47.925, while Georgia was leading the meet early. Arkansas came back strong on the balance beam in the third rotation paced by a 9.85 from senior Katie Hardman who anchored the event. Hardman’s number was joined by a season-best tying 9.80 from junior Cassie Drew. Peacock added a 9.775 and junior Rachel Barnett had a 9.75 helping the Gym’Backs overtake Kentucky and move into sixth place with a 96.825 after two events. Arkansas had a bye in the fourth rotation waiting for their turn on the floor. The Gym’Backs had the unenviable task of following top-ranked Georgia on the event after the Gym Dogs scored a 49.600 on the floor to lead the meet in what was shaping up to be a record-setting night. The Gym’Backs made up a lot of ground between themselves and the fifth-place Auburn Tigers in the next rotation. The floor saw the Gym’Backs post a 49.075 closing within .025 of Auburn with one event for both teams remaining. Scores steadily climbed for Arkansas on the floor climaxing with a 9.875 from Peacock to lead the charge. Barnett’s 9.85 and Hardman’s 9.825 were followed by a 9.80 from sophomore Mallory Machnik as Arkansas opened some space between themselves and Kentucky who struggled on bars. The Gym’Backs (145.90) finished the floor in sixth place trailing Auburn (145.925) and ahead of the Wildcats (134.70). Auburn regained some of the momentum in the sixth rotation moving to floor and scoring 49.050 while Arkansas was idle. The ball was in Arkansas’ court in the final rotation as the Gym’Backs moved to the vault while Auburn and Kentucky both finished on byes. When the Tigers finished their floor, Arkansas needed a 49.075 to jump ahead of Auburn into the fifth spot but more importantly on the national level, the Gym’Backs needed a 48.70 to stay ahead of No. 20 Denver in the poll. Machnik opened the vault with a solid performance and well stuck landing earning a 9.650. Senior all-arounder McQuillin followed with a 9.70 and the scores continued to be good. Freshman Breanne Guy added a 9.750 along with a 9.70 from senior Audra Loveless and a pair of 9.80s from sophomore Samantha Cortez and junior Cassie Drew. The Gym’Backs mighty effort gave them a 48.750 holding them in sixth place with a 194.650, just behind the 194.975 of Auburn. Top-ranked Georgia won the meet with a 197.275, followed by No. 5 Alabama with a 196.975. Third-ranked Florida was third with a 196.275 followed by No. 8 LSU with a 195.900. No. 14 Auburn with a 194.975, No. 19 Arkansas with a 194.650 and No. 18 Kentucky with a 191.150. Saturday’s meet will air on FSN South/SEV-TV March 30, at 6:00 p.m. Central and will feature the Arkansas senior class during the broadcast. The Lady Razorbacks return to Barnhill Arena for the final home meet of the 2006 season hosting the program’s first NCAA South Central Regional April 8. For more information and tickets, please call the Lady Razorback Ticket Office at 57-LBACK or log on to LADYBACKS.COM.