No. 12 Razorback gymnastics opens season Friday

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The 12th-ranked University of Arkansas gymnastics team opens the 2009 season hosting No. 21 Ohio State in Barnhill Arena Friday at 7 p.m. The Razorbacks are coming off a program-best 10th-place finish at the 2008 NCAA Championships and have a solid corps of returners from that squad back to lead the team this year. Arkansas has been training since returning to campus in the fall and both the coaches and gymnasts are ready for competition. “It’s been a long preseason,” said co-head coach René Cook. “We’ve been working so hard since the beginning of school and the team is really in a good place right now.” “We’ve actually had to pace ourselves a bit more this year and be more creative in practice,” added co-head coach Mark Cook. “The team came back to campus in the best shape ever and we were so much farther along than in past years. We’ excited and ready to go.” Lone senior Alex LaChance returns along with the program’s first-ever All-Americans in Casey Jo Magee and Michelle Stout return to lead a small but solid team. The Razorbacks will rely on LaChance and the junior class; Magee, Stout, Sarah Nagashima and Amy DeFilippo, for many of the routines this year. “The upperclassmen are really pushing the team where we want to go,” said René Cook. “They are very focused and driven and are setting the tone for the entire team.” Stout officially became the Razorbacks’ first All-American and was the first to earn a spot in the event finals on vault last year. “I’m so exciting to get the season started,” said Stout. “We ended last year on a great note and we just want to continue building the program. I feel ready, prepared and I just want to get started.” Magee earned a pair of second-team All-America honors on vault and bars last year. She echoed Stout’s sentiment. “We all just feel so very well prepared and ready to go,” she said. “I feel even more prepared for the start of the season this year. Our experience at Nationals last year gave us a taste of what we could accomplish and was a great motivator for the summer. We’re a tight-knit team and I feel like we know each other very well. That’s definitely an advantage. We have confidence in each other. “I think we can be a Super Six team,” Magee continued. “It is a high goal but one we feel is obtainable.” The Ohio State contest is the first of five regular-season home meets for Arkansas. This year the Razorbacks host No. 1 Georgia, No. 3 Florida, No. 6 Alabama and No. 22 Minnesota in Barnhill. The Razorbacks have also been selected to host the 2009 NCAA South Central Regional Championships April 4.