Arkansas confident going into regional

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Saturday, April 2, 2016
Arkansas' Stephanie Canizaro celebrates Friday, March 11, 2016, with teammates after competing in the floor rotation during the 11th-ranked Razorbacks' meet with Utah State in Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas' Stephanie Canizaro celebrates Friday, March 11, 2016, with teammates after competing in the floor rotation during the 11th-ranked Razorbacks' meet with Utah State in Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The No. 13 Arkansas gymnastics team is brimming with confidence heading into today's NCAA Iowa City Regional.

The Razorbacks, making their 13th consecutive trip to a regional, must finish in the top two among the six teams in the 4 p.m. meet to advance to the NCAA Championships for the seventh time.

Arkansas women’s gymnastics

WHAT NCAA Iowa City Regional

WHEN 4 p.m. today

WHERE Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City, Iowa

FORMAT Top two teams from each of six NCAA Regionals advance to the NCAA Championships

TV None

LIVE STATS hawkeyesports.com

REGIONAL FIELD No. 1 Oklahoma 197.92 regional qualifying score, No. 12 Nebraska 196.635, No. 13 (tie) Arkansas 196.575, No. 19 Iowa 196.33, No. 30 Kent State 195.595, No. 35 Central Michigan 195.44

ARKANSAS VS. FIELD 1-11 vs. Oklahoma; 2-4 vs. Nebraska; 3-0 vs. Iowa; 0-0 vs. Kent State; 0-0 vs. Central Michigan

EVENT RANKINGS Vault: No. 3 (tie) Oklahoma 49.415, No. 11 Arkansas 49.16, No. 16 Nebraska 49.105, No. 17 Iowa 49.095, No. 40 Central Michigan 48.795, No. 47 Kent State 48.675; Uneven bars: No. 1 Oklahoma 49.575, No. 14 (tie) Nebraska 49.18, No. 16 Arkansas 49.165, No. 17 (tie) Iowa 49.16, No. 24 Central Michigan 49.045, No. 35 Kent State 48.94; Balance beam: No. 1 Oklahoma 49.445, No. 8 Nebraska 49.225, No. 14 (tie) Arkansas 49.195, No. 23 Iowa 49.095, No. 33 Central Michigan 48.945, No. 35 Kent State 48.915, Floor exercise: No. 1 Oklahoma 49.575, No. 12 Arkansas 49.28, No. 14 Nebraska 49.26, No. 20 Kent State 49.205, No. 28 Iowa 49.115, No. 40 Central Michigan 48.995.

TOP 25 GYMNASTS

VAULT No. 2 AJ Jackson (OU) 9.94, No. 12 (tie) Amanda Wellick (Ark) 9.9, No. 18 Haley Scaman (OU) 9.89, No. 24 (tie) Hollie Blanske (Neb).

UNEVEN BARS No. 1 (tie) McKenzie Wofford (OU) 9.95, No. 6 Kmieciak (OU) 9.93, No. 8 (tie) Capps (OU) 9.92, No. 11 (tie) Nicole Lehrmann (OU) 9.915.

BALANCE BEAM No. 1 Capps (OU) 9.955, No. 7 (tie) Natalie Brown (OU) 9.91, No. 17 (tie) Drenth (Iowa) and Williams (Neb) 9.895.

FLOOR EXERCISE No. 5 Scaman (OU) 9.945, No. 17 (tie) Jackson (OU) and Blanske (Neb) 9.92, No. 19 (tie) Capps (OU) 9.915.

ALL-AROUND No. 2 Capps (OU) 39.625, No. 14 Kmieciak (OU) 39.485, No. 16 Blanske (Neb) 39.42, No. 19 Wellick (Ark) 39.39, No. 22 Drenth (Iowa) 39.34.

Arkansas is paired against No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 12 Nebraska, No. 19 Iowa, No. 30 Kent State and No. 35 Central Michigan.

Scoring higher than the loaded Sooners, who lead the nation on the uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise, would be a chore, but the Razorbacks can qualify for the nationals in Fort Worth by outpointing the others.

"OU is ranked first and they're going to be really hard to beat by anybody, but the second spot is open between Iowa, Nebraska and ourselves," said 14th-year Arkansas Coach Mark Cook. "I feel the matchup is good. I feel Nebraska has a balanced program like us, and it's whoever does the best that day."

Arkansas senior Stephani Canizaro said the Razorbacks plan to keep their season alive in Iowa.

"It won't be our last meet," Canizaro said. "This team has just been so consistent. We're really confident and we had a great week of training."

Oklahoma, which shared the NCAA title with Florida in 2014, is the greatest threat to impede the SEC's run of 10 NCAA titles won or shared in the past 11 years.

The Sooners boast the top regional qualifying score in the nation with a 197.92, and they are dominant on the bars, where they have four of the top 11 gymnasts and six of the top 36 in the country. Oklahoma junior Chayse Capps ranks No. 2 in the all-around, and senior Keeley Kmieciak ranks No. 14.

Arkansas is led by the junior Amanda Wellick, who is No. 19 nationally with a 39.39 regional qualifying score, and the senior quartet of Canizaro, Sydnie Dillard, Erin Freier and Keara Glover.

The Razorbacks have shown they can compete near the highest levels, as evidenced by their season-high score of 197.225, which tied the school record. However, a season-long wrist injury to senior Heather Elswick and a more recent leg injury for vault specialist Leah MacMoyle has tested Arkansas' depth.

Cook, who eased back on the intensity of training the past couple of weeks, said he thinks the Razorbacks can push back beyond 197 by cleaning up small deductions on every event.

"The tenths are up to the girls," Cook said. "I can't will somebody to improve a tenth. It has to be them, being in a zone and dialing in to their technique and doing it correctly."

Canizaro said Arkansas is in position to show late-season improvements.

"Every event we're giving tenths away," she said. "Just by hitting our handstands, sticking our landings, big vaults and controlled landings on floor we can pick up a tenth on every event."

Sports on 04/02/2016

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