Arkansas' Cook, Shaffer named SEC's best

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Thursday, March 29, 2018
Arkansas' Sarah Shaffer competes Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, in the bars portion of the Razorbacks' meet with Kentucky in Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville. Arkansas coach Mark Cook is shown watching in the background.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas' Sarah Shaffer competes Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, in the bars portion of the Razorbacks' meet with Kentucky in Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville. Arkansas coach Mark Cook is shown watching in the background.

Arkansas gymnastics coach Mark Cook and freshman Sarah Shaffer were named Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year and SEC Freshman of the Year, the league announced Thursday.

Cook, in his 16th season with the Razorbacks, guided Arkansas to a fifth place overall finish at the SEC Championship this season - the program's highest since 2011. Arkansas also scored better than 196 at the event for the first time in program history.

Cook also led Arkansas to the biggest turnaround in the SEC this season as the team upped its Regional Qualifying Score by 1.245 points and its season average by 2.045 points over a season ago. Arkansas is the only school to improve its RQS by more than .33 from this point last season.

Arkansas posted scores of 197 or higher three different times for the first time in program history and set a record-high RQS three times. The Razorbacks are No. 10 in this week's national rankings and hold their highest ranking heading into regional championships since 2012.

Cook was named SEC Co-Coach of the Year in twice, in 2008 and 2016.

Shaffer is the highest-ranked freshman in the SEC in floor events, 26th in the nation and seventh overall in the conference. She competed in the all-around in 9 of 12 meets this season and is conference's only nationally-ranked freshman in the all-around. She also ranks in the top 100 in vault and bars.

The freshman recorded scores of 9.900 or higher 10 different times this season and leads the league's first-year gymnasts with six scores of 9.900 or better on the floor. Shaffer's score of 9.950 on the floor in Arkansas' Tri meet against Denver and Iowa State was the highest score on the floor of any league freshmen.

In four meets this season, Shaffer recorded multiple 9.900 scores and was named Freshman of the Week three times, which led the SEC.

Shaffer is the third Razorback in program history to be named SEC Freshman of the Year, joining Amanda Wellick (2014) and Paige Zaziski (2015).

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