No. 19 Gym'Backs travel to SECs Saturday

FAYETTEVILLE — The No. 19 University of Arkansas gymnastics team begins post-season action this weekend traveling to the Southeastern Conference Championship in Birmingham, Ala., Saturday. Arkansas is making its fourth appearance in four seasons at the SEC Championship and returns to Birmingham after a two-year hiatus in Duluth, Ga., for the 2004 and 2005 championships. "This is a big meet this weekend," said co-head coach Mark Cook. "It’s hard to believe we’ve had 10 meets already this year. We know it will be a battle at SECs as it always is but we feel confident and prepared heading into it." The Gym’Backs are no strangers to the tough competition that awaits them in Birmingham. Headlining the field is defending national champion and top-ranked Georgia. They are joined by No. 3 Florida, No. 5 Alabama, No. 8 LSU, No. 14 Auburn, No. 18 Kentucky and No. 19 Arkansas in what has become one of the toughest conference championships in the country. The Gym’Backs have continued to improve during their first three-plus seasons of competition and picked up narrow wins over Auburn and Kentucky at home this year for the second consecutive season. But both of those SEC foes have continued to score well all season and Arkansas will have it’s hands full this weekend. Another new feature (besides the location) that the Gym’Backs face this weekend is the arena setup. This weekend’s competition takes place with the gymnastics equipment on an elevated platform in the center of the arena. The setup is similar to the national championship structure and is familiar to the gymnasts from their club days. "I’d say about half of our team has seen this setup before," said co-head coach Rene Cook. "It’s a little different look and, yes, we do have some experience with it but it’s a different environment. We’ve competed well in the last five meets though and we’re going in well prepared and on a high note. I can’t wait to see what we can do." In addition to the goal of a top finish at the SEC Championship, Arkansas enters the meet looking for a high road score in the hopes of moving up into the top 18 in the country next week. The Gym’Backs, currently 19th in the country, are shooting for one of the coveted 18 seeded spots with the regionals just around the corner. "We’re in a really good spot right now," said Rene Cook, "and moving up is well within our grasp." Arkansas returns from SEC action to prepare for the 2006 NCAA South Central Regional Championship, a meet the Gym’Backs host for the first time in school history April 8 in Barnhill Arena. Tickets for the NCAA Regional are currently on sale at the Lady Razorback Ticket Office. Please call 57-LBACK or log on to LADYBACKS.COM for more information.