No. 13 Gym'Backs travel to Michigan for NCAA Regional Championship
FAYETTEVILLE — The 13th-ranked University of Arkansas gymnastics team travels to Ann Arbor, Mich., for the NCAA Northeast Regional Championship on Saturday, April 14. Arkansas makes its fourth consecutive regional appearance in the five-year history of the program and travels to Michigan as the 13th seed overall. The top two teams from each of the six regional sites advance to the NCAA Championship, April 26-28, in Salt Lake City, Utah. "We’re excited to go to Michigan this week," said co-head coach Rene Cook. "We’ve been neck-and-neck all season with Michigan in the rankings and we’re expecting a very exciting meet. We’re very familiar with Florida and they deserve their number one ranking. Hopefully, we’ll be in a dogfight with Michigan to go to nationals." In addition to Arkansas, the Gym’Backs face top-ranked Florida for the fourth time this year. Michigan hosts the event and enters the weekend ranked 12th in the country. Also competing at this regional site is No. 41 Pittsburgh, No. 43 New Hampshire and No. 53 Rutgers. Arkansas never faced Michigan or Rutgers in a meet but has wins over Pittsburgh and New Hampshire this year. Although Arkansas is one of the youngest programs in the country the Gym’Backs have made their mark on the sport reaching the NCAA Championship last year after hosting the South Central Regional Championship in Barnhill Arena. The Gym’Backs upset ninth-ranked UCLA earning the program’s first-ever trip to the national championship. This season, Arkansas has had a much firmer grip on one of the coveted top 18 spots (the top 18 teams are seeded) and head into the regional championship with a little different focus. "Last year, we were thinking it would be great if we made it to nationals," said Cook. "This year, we’re going into it with more confidence and with the idea that we can make it. We’re going to have to do our job and stay on the equipment and we know that Michigan is going to be difficult to defeat, especially in their own gym." Arkansas has used a balanced attack this year with contributions from every class. Upperclassmen Cassie Drew, Rachel Barnett, Emily Peacock and Samantha Cortez have anchored the sophomores and freshmen but the youngsters have stepped up and contributed early in their careers. "Our freshmen class stepped up and preformed really well for us at SECs," noted Cook. "They’ve been doing a good job for us all year. We’re the type of team that doesn’t really have one standout gymnast, it takes everyone to do their jobs for us to be successful. That’s what we look for in each meet and the regional is no different." For more information about the Northeast Regional Championship and the Gym’Backs, please go to LADYBACKS.COM.