No. 11 Arkansas hosts No. 4 Florida in SEC battle

FAYETTEVILLE — The 11th-ranked University of Arkansas gymnastics team returns home for just the second time this season hosting No. 4 Florida in Southeastern Conference action in Barnhill Arena Friday. The Gym’Backs, 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the SEC, opened the year with three consecutive road meets and had five of their first six away from home. "We’re excited to have Florida up next and to be at home," said Gym’Back co-head coach Mark Cook. "Florida has an extremely strong program and we hope the fans will come out and support us as they have in the past." The Gators (8-2, 3-1 SEC) enter the meet as one of the hottest teams in the SEC this week. Florida has won four dual meets in a row with victories over Nebraska, Alabama, Georgia and Auburn in recent weeks. They have posted three scores better that 196.000 and are currently in second place in the SEC standings. Arkansas has also been competing well. The Gym’Backs are coming off a successful trip West in which they defeated the No. 19 Washington Huskies in their own gym. But the road-weary Gym’Backs are glad to be home. "It’s an awesome felling to have our fans here and cheering for us," said sophomore Cassie Drew. "It elevates all of our emotions just to know they are here for us." In just their third season of competition the Gym’Backs have reached a program-high number 11 ranking this week. The upward movement in the GymInfo national poll has been steady all season after the Gym’Backs opened the year at No. 24 in the preseason poll. "We have competed well at every meet of the season," said co-head coach René Cook. "We’re happy to be where we are right now but we’re only half-way through the season. "We want to stay the course and continue to improve. We have a special group of gymnasts and they work together well. It’s been a fun experience and I hope to bring that feeling to the fans." The Gym’Backs’ meet with Florida is the first of two in a row in Barnhill and one of four remaining home competitions for Arkansas. The Gym’Backs host No. 5 Alabama Frdiay, Feb. 25, followed by a road meet at Denver. Then it’s back to Barnhill for Missouri March 13, and the Arkansas Quad with No. 6 Nebraska, No. 9 UCLA and No. 16 Oregon State March 19. For more information about Arkansas gymnastics or for tickets please call the Lady Razorback Ticket Office at 57-LBACK or log on to LADYBACKS.COM.