Razorback gymnasts surging of late

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Friday, March 11, 2016
Arkansas' Sydnie Dillard competes Friday, Feb. 26, 2016, in the floor portion of the Razorbacks' meet with Kentucky in Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas' Sydnie Dillard competes Friday, Feb. 26, 2016, in the floor portion of the Razorbacks' meet with Kentucky in Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The Arkansas gymnastics team will aim for a feat tonight that it hasn't achieved in five years when the Razorbacks take the floor for senior night at Barnhill Arena against Utah State.

The Razorbacks, winners of three consecutive dual meets, have not won four in a row since the 2011 team defeated Kentucky, Auburn, Georgia and LSU in succession, with three of those victories coming on the road. Arkansas has beaten Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri the last three weeks, including a season-high score of 197.225 against the Wildcats.

Arkansas gymnastics vs. Utah State

WHEN 7 p.m.

WHERE Barnhill Arena

TELEVISION None

RECORDS Utah State 7-6; Arkansas 6-5

COACHES Nadalie Walsh (28-38 in 3rd year at Utah State); Mark Cook (172-209-3 career record in 14th year at Arkansas)

SERIES Arkansas leads 1-0

LAST MEETING Arkansas won 196.375-191.875 at NCAA Fayetteville Regional on April 5, 2014 at Barnhill Arena

RANKINGS No. 11 Arkansas 196.47 regional qualifying score; No. 32 Utah State 195.35

EVENT RANKINGS

Vault: No. 9 (tie) Arkansas 49.15, No. 37 (tie) Utah State 48.775; Bars: No. 15 Arkansas 49.125, No. 19 Utah State 49.075, Beam: No. 13 Arkansas 49.16, No. 28 Utah State 48.92; Floor: No. 11 Arkansas 49.25, No. 35 Utah State 48.975.

TOP 100 GYMNASTS

Vault: No. 9 (tie) Amanda Wellick (Ark) 9.9, No. 53 Sydney McGlone (Ark) 9.84, No. 58 Paige Zaziski (Ark) 9.835.

Bars: No. 47 Zaziski (Ark) 9.86, No. 56 McKinzey Martinez (USU) 9.85, No. 62 Bailey McIntire (USU) 9.845, No. 69 (tie) Braie Speed (Ark) and Wellick (Ark) 9.84, No. 79 Erin Freier (Ark) 9.835.

Beam: No. 39 Wellick (Ark) 9.86, No. 46 Sydnie Dillard (Ark) 9.855, No. 77 Zaziski (Ark) 9.83, No. 91 (tie) Samantha Nelson (Ark) and Hayley Sanzotti (USU) 9.825.

Floor No. 38 Nelson (Ark) 9.88, No. 46 Wellick (Ark) 9.875, No. 77 Stephani Canizaro (Ark) 9.845, No. 100 (tie) McIntire (USU) 9.835.

All-Around: No. 14 Wellick (Ark) 39.385, No. 72 Martinez (USU) 38.52.

NOTEWORTHY

Junior Amanda Wellick and sophomore Paige Zaziski are the only Razorbacks who have not scored less than 9.8 on the vault in 10 meets this season. … Arkansas senior Erin Freier, an uneven bars and balance beam specialist, is the only Razorback who has posted a counting score on the bars in all 10 meets. … Arkansas has scored 49.0 or better on the balance beam in the last nine meets. … The Aggies top score this season was a 196.025 in a tri-meet victory over BYU and New Hampshire on senior night on March 4 in Logan, Utah.

— Tom Murphy

"I feel like this year we have such great team chemistry that it just kind of clicked," Erin Freier said. "We feel like with this team we can take it even farther than that 197.225 that we got."

Arkansas (6-5) will honor its seniors Sydnie Dillard, Heather Elswick, Keara Glover and Freier, though Elswick (wrist surgery) is redshirting with the intention of finishing her career next season. Fellow senior Stephani Canizaro, a fifth-year performer, was honored at last year's senior day.

"I can clearly remember [my] freshman year, my very first meet competing here and how excited I was," Dillard said. "It's crazy that this is my last time already."

Said Freier, "It's going to be hard, the bitter-sweet moment of the last time ever competing in Barnhill. It's going to be hard to separate the emotions, but I think my teammates will help me a lot with keeping the energy up for all of us."

Freier and Dillard should be in the lineup for two events each tonight, while Glover will likely lead off on the uneven bars and Canizaro will compete on the bars and floor exercise.

It's unlikely Arkansas can score high enough tonight to qualify for a top-four spot for next week's SEC championships in North Little Rock. The Razorbacks have a 196.47 regional qualifying score, sixth in the SEC behind No. 2 Florida (197.58), No. 3 LSU (197.34), No. 4 Alabama (197.325), No. 7 Auburn (196.94) and No. 9 Georgia (196.82). The bottom four teams in the SEC will compete in the early session and the top four teams will go in the late session next Saturday at Verizon Arena.

Arkansas had been in the top 10 much of the season before finishing its SEC slate with a 196.2 in a victory at No. 14 Missouri last week. The Razorbacks are hoping they can cap the regular season with a performance closer to the one they posted here two weeks ago for the program's first 197-plus in 25 meets.

"We finally competed to our potential on every event," said Dillard, who is ranked No. 46 nationally on the balance beam. "That's something we've struggled with this year. We'll do really well on certain events but not all four events."

The Razorbacks will be led by junior Amanda Wellick, who ranks 14th in the country with a 39.325 regional qualifying score in the all-around.

The Aggies (7-6), who are 0-1 all-time against Arkansas, are led by senior McKinzey Martinez, who has a 38.52 regional qualifying score in the all-around.

Sports on 03/11/2016

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