UA gymnastics team earns No. 2 seed in regional

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Arkansas Razorbacks Sarah Shaffer high-fives teammates during a gymnastics meet, Friday, January 26, 2018 at Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Charlie Kaijo
Arkansas Razorbacks Sarah Shaffer high-fives teammates during a gymnastics meet, Friday, January 26, 2018 at Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The No. 10 Arkansas Razorbacks gymnastics team turned a couple of strong performances late in the season into a No. 2 seed for the NCAA postseason.

The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville on Monday was assigned to the NCAA Columbus (Ohio) Regional, where the Razorbacks will be matched with No. 3 UCLA, No. 15 Boise State, Missouri, host Ohio State and Kent State on April 7 at St. John Arena.

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"Any team can win this if they really hit solid," Arkansas Coach Mark Cook said.

The top two scoring teams from each of six NCAA regionals will advance to the NCAA Championships on April 20-21 at Chaiffetz Arena in St. Louis, where the SEC Championships were held last weekend.

The Razorbacks placed fifth in the SEC meet, their highest finish in the conference meet since placing fourth in 2011, scoring a 196.425. The previous week, Arkansas posted a school-record 197.3 in a tri-meet victory over Denver and Iowa State at Barnhill Arena.

"The SEC Championship really prepares us for this postseason," Cook said. "It's such a high-energy competition, and if you compete well it prepares you for this competition. We feed off that."

The other No. 1 seeds are No. 1 ranked and defending national champion Oklahoma at the St. Paul (Minn.) Regional; No. 2 LSU at the Raleigh (N.C.) Regional; No. 4 Utah at the Salt Lake City Regional; No. 5 Florida at the State College (Penn.) Regional; and No. 6 Alabama at the Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Regional. Arkansas has never competed at Ohio State.

The Razorbacks' No. 10 ranking is their highest entering the NCAA postseason since 2012, and just the third time they have entered a regional with a top-10 ranking. Arkansas is making its 15th consecutive NCAA regional appearance in its 16th year of existence, all under Cook.

The return of senior Amanda Wellick from an Achilles injury, combined with a steady season from classmate Braie Speed and the influx of key freshmen Sarah Shaffer, Sophia Carter and Sydney Laird to pair with sophomores Jessica Yamzon, Hailey Garner and Michaela Burton has made Arkansas one of the most improved teams in the nation.

The Razorbacks have a regional qualifying score of 196.82 this season, more than a point higher than last year's score of 195.775, which ranked 27th in the country entering the NCAAs.

"The team is really good this year," Cook said. "We have a lot of experience with the upperclassmen and our freshmen and our freshmen are doing outstanding this year. Our lineups are going to stay the same. We're in a flow. We're in a groove. It's a really good team, a strong team and a confident team."

The Razorbacks are 3-12 vs. UCLA, 3-0 vs. Boise State, 13-9 vs. Missouri, 2-0 vs. Ohio State and 1-0 vs. Kent State all time.

Sports on 03/27/2018

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