UA gymnasts limp into action

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Friday, January 11, 2013
Mark Cook will begin his 11th season as Arkansas' co-head coach on Friday.
Photo by Jason Ivester
Mark Cook will begin his 11th season as Arkansas' co-head coach on Friday.

— Arkansas opens its gymnastics season tonight with no Jaime Pisani and a dinged-up roster needing contributions from newcomers, but there is still plenty of optimism.

“I think it might take a few weeks to get to ultimately where we need to be, but at the same time this team is very strong,” Arkansas Co-Coach Rene Lyst said. “We’ve just got to go out ... not count mistakes, not count falls and really start off the season with consistency to get our momentum going.”


No. 11 Georgia at No. 12 Arkansas

WHEN 7 p.m.

WHERE Barnhill Arena, Fayetteville

RECORDS Georgia 0-1; Arkansas 0-0

The No. 12 Razorbacks start with a tough degree of difficulty, facing No. 11 Georgia at 7 p.m. at Barnhill Arena.

“You’ve got to start somewhere,” Arkansas Co-Coach Mark Cook said. “It’s always good to have a strong opponent and an SEC school. It doesn’t really faze our team or us as coaches at all.”

With Pisani, the SEC’s gymnast of the year in 2012, lost to graduation, senior all-arounder Jordan Salsberg limited to possibly just the uneven bars after re-injuring her knee, and junior Scarlett Williams out for the season with an Achilles tendon injury, the Razorbacks will be turning many routines over to untested talent.

Junior Katherine Grable and senior Amy Borsellino, both All-Americans, will compete in the all-around, while senior Kelci Lewis is likely to go in two or three events, and juniors Shelby Salmon and Bailee Zumwalde will chip in with a few routines. From the Razorbacks’ five-person freshman class, Heather Elswick, Keara Glover, Sydnie Dillard and Erin Freier are likely to combine for as many as nine events.

Salsberg had rehabbed from last year’s knee surgery before landing badly in preseason work and re-injuring the knee.

“It’s disappointing because she was doing all four events,” Lyst said. “We’re just hopeful that we can keep her participating for her senior year.”

Georgia, led by juniors Cat Hires and Kaylan Earls, lost at home to No. 4 Oklahoma last week 196.45 to 195.425.

NOTEWORTHY Arkansas is 14-10 in season-opening meets, including a 5-0 record in last year’s Cancun Classic. ... The Razorbacks are 6-10 in home openers. ... Georgia leads the all-time series 21-2-1, including a 2-1 edge last year, but the Razorbacks down the GymDogs 197.15 to 196.5 in the NCAA Session II semifinal last April 20 in Duluth, Ga. ... The GymDogs are led by first-year Coach Danna Durante. ... Arkansas has qualified for the NCAA finals six times in its 10-year history. ... Georgia has claimed 10 NCAA Gymnastics championships, including five in a row (2005-09).

Sports, Pages 23 on 01/11/2013