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calling_the_hogs Offline
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..the Lady'Back gymnasts...whose all-freshman squad won their first-ever meet last night, defeating long-time SEC program Kentucky, Illinois-Chicago, and Texas Women's University.

They're already gonna be a Top 25 team as all freshman. Wish some of our other programs could get that successful that quickly.

WPS

VICTORY -- Gym'Backs rack up a night of firsts at UK
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LEXINGTON - On a night of many firsts, the one that counted the most was the three, as in victories, as the University of Arkansas gymnastics team scored a near-season high 194.475 to sweep Illinois-Chicago, Texas Women's University and the host University of Kentucky Friday evening at Memorial Gym.
The host GymKats faltered after one of their best vault rotations, and the Gym'Backs were up to the challenge.
Kentucky finished last in the four-way meet, scoring a 192.825. Illinois-Chicago was second with 193.425, followed by TWU at 193.275.
All-arounder Hannah McLeod led the way with a career and team best 39.00 and became the first -ever event champion with her 9.825 on balance beam. For the night, Arkansas sent nine athletes to the award stand for top placings and picked up seven new individual bests.
"This was a night with a lot of firsts for our team, and we hope there are many more to come," McLeod said.
"Hopefully, we'll start to see a lot more event winners," Rene Cook said. "It's a great moment for the program to get these wins, but it was just great to see a lot of our athletes on the awards stand."
After facing a murder's row of the nation's top five teams in its first four events, Arkansas arrived at Lexington as the higher ranked team for the first time this season, and parlayed a confidence on the apparatus into a program first.
"This was a fun night," Rene Cook said. "More than winning, it was being in the thick of the meet and having this team respond with such a competitive attitude."
"It was very exciting," Mark Cook said. "The girls had a great night, and we really enjoyed being a part of the moment."
The meet was the first SEC road competition, but it also was the first time that Arkansas experienced a four-way meet. With the pace much faster and the rotation order off kilter, the Gym'Backs had more than the usual road event jitters.
Kentucky put the rest of the competition on the ropes in the first rotation, scoring a 49.100 on vault thanks to a 9.9 from Melanie Zaharias and a 9.85 from Michelle Gales.
Arkansas had to open on uneven bars, with McLeod leading off with a season best of 9.7. The Gym'Backs followed without a fall, but could not impress the judges more than a 9.8 by Melissa Leigh to finish the round with 48.675.
Then the falls began for Kentucky as the GymKats had three on uneven bars. Arkansas battled on beam with two falls of its own, but McLeod's 9.825 and Katie Hardman's 9.8 drove the Gym'Backs to a 48.2 which gave them a narrow lead over UK, but not UIC.
"After beam, we told them that they had to fight for every tenth of a point," Rene Cook said. "And they responded with the best floor rotation of the year."
With Hardman leading off with 9.75, the Gym'Backs proceeded to take control with back-to-back 9.8s from Kim Harris and Dana McQuillin. Audra Loveless' 9.775 and McLeod's 9.8 set up a dramatic finale from Tiffany Berry with a 9.825.
Kentucky continued to falter, picking up three falls on beam and another on floor. The attention shifted from the SEC rival to the regional foe as UIC was finishing their meet on beam while Arkansas closed on vault.
Considered coming into the season as the Gym'Backs' weak spot, Arkansas stepped to the runway for a season-high tying 48.6 to counter the Flames' 48.0 on beam.
"It was very important for our team to make a statement tonight, in particular with our regional rivals," Rene Cook said.
That it came on the road was important, as Arkansas not only improved their season best away from Barnhill Arena, they also picked up a vital regional victory over UIC.
"It's harder to do on the road," Mark Cook said. "It makes it a little more enjoyable. Most of all, it's great for the team because they can see some success along with their hard work on the good scores we've been getting."
The Gym'Backs continue on the road next weekend for a Valentine's Day meet at Auburn.

AGATE
Arkansas 194.475, Kentucky 192.825
Arkansas 194.475, Illinois-Chicago 193.425
Arkansas 194.475, Texas Women's 193.275
VAULT
Arkansas 48.600 (Harris, 9.725; Cashwell, 9.675; McLeod, 9.675; Loveless, 9.775; McQuillin, 9.750; Berry, 9.425); Kentucky 49.100; Illinois-Chicago 48.650; TWU 48.525.
BARS
Arkansas 48.675 (McLeod, 9.700; McQuillin, 9.725; Harris, 9.700; Berry, 9.725; Cashwell, 9.725; Leigh, 9.800); Kentucky, 47.625; UIC, 48.675; TWU, 48.450.
BEAM
Arkansas 48.200 (Berry, 9.625; Leigh, 9.125; Lawrence, 9.775; McLeod, 9.825; McQuillin, 9.175; Hardman, 9.800); Kentucky 47.250; UIC 48.000; TWU, 48.225.
FLOOR
Arkansas 49.000 (Hardman 9.750; Harris, 9.800; McQuillin, 9.800; Loveless, 9.775; McLeod, 9.800; Berry, 9.825); Kentucky 48.850; UCI 48.100; TWU 48.075
02-08-2003 02:57 PM
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