Razorbacks in search of first dual-meet gymnastics victory

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Friday, January 26, 2018
Arkansas gymnastics coach Mark Cook, left, talks with sophomore Jessica Yamzon during a meet against Kentucky on Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, at Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas gymnastics coach Mark Cook, left, talks with sophomore Jessica Yamzon during a meet against Kentucky on Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, at Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — Mark Cook and the Arkansas Razorbacks gymnasts had just one goal in mind this week with No. 11 Georgia heading to Barnhill Arena for tonight’s 6 p.m. dual meet.

“Beat the Dogs and score big,” Cook said Wednesday. “That’s it.”

The No. 10 Razorbacks (0-3, 0-3 SEC) will host their second top 15 team in search of their first dual-meet victory since winning at No. 17 Auburn last Feb. 3. Georgia (1-2, 1-1) won its first meet of the year with a season-high 196.725 last week against Auburn.

The meet, which will be shown live on the SEC Network, will match a former Georgia standout against her old team and teammates.

Arkansas volunteer assistant coach Courtney Mc-Cool Griffeth was a four-time All-American and three-time national championship team member at Georgia (2007-10) and a member of the 2004 U.S. Olympics team that won the silver medal in Athens, Greece.

“She’s taking it like a competitor,” Cook said. “She wants to win and it doesn’t matter whether she’s alumni or not. … She’s fully invested in this program and this is where her heart is at.”

Former All-American Courtney Kupets-Carter is in her first year as head coach of Georgia, the third leader of the program since Suzanne Yoculan stepped down in 2009 after winning a fifth consecutive NCAA championship and her 10th overall.

After stumbling out of the gate with a 194.525 in a loss at Alabama, the Bulldogs rebounded with back-to-back scores of 196.6 or better.

“Their hard work and determination is evident in practices and transitioning to competition, which is what we want to see,” Kupets-Carter said. “Their scores are reflecting that and are now showing in the rankings. We have a long way to go, but this team is ready for the challenges that lie ahead.”

The Razorbacks posted a 196.15 in a loss at No. 24 Missouri last week, a step back from their 196.525 the week before.

“We have to capitalize on the improvements we’re making on our routines,” Cook said. “We’re really trying to focus on all of our landings. If we have our landings mastered this meet we’ll score big.”

The Razorbacks continue to excel on the beam under the direction of former All-American Jaime Armbrust Pisani. Arkansas is ranked No. 4 in the country on the event with an average score of 49.2.

“You have to have the same calmness,” Cook said when asked how the good beam work could impact other events. “You have to have the same confidence. We have a great beam team. … Jaime’s doing a great job coaching that event. Us coaches on the other events, we have to do a little better. We’re all a team.”

The Razorbacks will compete with sophomore Jessica Yamzon and freshman Sarah Shaffer in the all-around and senior Amanda Wellick and freshmen Sophia Carter on three events each. Yamzon won the all-around and shared the beam title with teammate Michaela Burton last week at Missouri, while senior Braie Speed won the vault.

SEC gymnastics


WHEN 6 p.m. today

WHERE Barnhill Arena, Fayetteville

TICKETS Adults $5; 17-under $3; UA students free

RECORDS Georgia 1-2, 1-1 SEC; Arkansas 0-3, 0-3 SEC

TV SEC Network

EVENTS Vault: No. 9 Georgia 49.05, No. 11 Arkansas 49.025; Bars: No. 11 Georgia 49.025, No. 19 Arkansas 48.883; Beam: No. 4 Arkansas 49.2, No. 23 Georgia 48.833; Floor: No. 13 Georgia 49.042, No. 29 Arkansas 48.9


ALL-AROUND No. 29 Sydney Snead (UGA) 39.15, No. 40 Jessica Yamzon (Ark) 39.092 No. 56 Rachel Dickson (UGA) 38.958, No. 83 Sarah Shaffer (Ark.) 38.658

VAULT No. 20 (tie) Braie Speed (Ark) 9.867, No. 27 (tie) Sydney McGlone (Ark) 9.85, No. 39 Snead (UGA) 9.842, No. 54 (tie) Amanda Wellick (Ark) 9.825

UNEVEN BARS No. 19 (tie) Dickson (UGA) 9.883, No. 32 (tie) Snead (UGA) 9.858, No. 43 (tie) Wellick (Ark), 9.842, No. 75 Speed (Ark) 9.808, No. 94 Sydney Laird (Ark) 9.792, No. 94 (tie) Natalie Vaculik (UGA) 9.792

BALANCE BEAM No. 14 (tie) Sabrina Vega (UGA) 9.875, No. 24 (tie) Sophia Carter (Ark) 9.867, No. 41 (tie) Wellick (Ark), Yamzon (Ark), Vivi Babalis (UGA) 9.842, No. 54 (tie) Michaela Burton (Ark) 9.833, No. 79 Snead (UGA) 9.808

FLOOR EXCERCISE No. 16 (tie) Vega (UGA) 9.883, No. 22 (tie) Dickson (UGA) 9.875, No. 58 (tie) Jasmine Arnold (UGA) 9.825, No. 80 Babalis (UGA) 9.817, No. 99 (tie) Yamzon (Ark.), Shaffer (Ark) 9.808


Georgia leads the series 32-2-1, including an 11-meet winning streak. Arkansas’ last victory came by a 197.15-to-196.5 margin at the NCAA Championships on April 20, 2012, in Duluth, Ga. ... The Razorbacks’ only dual-meet victory over the Bulldogs came on Feb. 4, 2011, in a 195.775-to-195.4 decision at Barnhill Arena. ... First-year Georgia Coach Courtney Kupets-Carter led the 2009 Bulldogs to their 10th national championship in Coach Suzanne Yoculan’s final season with a 39.9 for her third all-around NCAA title, including 10s on the uneven bars and vault.


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