Gym'Backs On Right Track

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas' No. 11 Gym'Backs return home for just the second time this season to host No. 4 Florida at 7 p.m. Friday in Barnhill Arena.

Arkansas, 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the Southeastern Conference, is coming off a 195.550-point performance at Washington last week that put them ahead of host Washington and behind Oregon State in the triangular meet.

"This year has been awesome," said UA sophomore Cassie Drew of Raleigh, N.C. "We're doing great in every event, and we have three great freshmen who have helped us."

Drew and Arkansas junior Katie Hardman are co-ranked 20th nationally on the beam.

"That's my favorite event, because I'm doing the best on it," said Drew, who also competes in the vaults and on the bars.

An ankle injury has kept Drew from doing floor exercise, but UA freshmen Mallory Machnik and Samantha Cortez have had highs of 9.875 points in floor while freshman Emily Peacock has posted a 9.825.

"Sam twisted her ankle last week, but she's doing better this week," Drew reported.

The Gym'Backs haven't had to count a fall all season -- which partly explains their consistent scoring.

"We've also added difficulty in each event," Drew said.

Florida (8-2, 3-1) scored 196.525 points while defeating then-No. 15 Auburn last week. The Gators are 5-0 against Arkansas, including SEC meets and the Tucson Regional last year. Florida already has beaten No. 5 Alabama and No. 7 Georgia this season, and ranks first nationally in the vault. The Gators are third on beam, seventh on bars and eighth in floor exercise.

Drew said the Gym'Backs are happy to be at home after two straight weekends on the road.

"Last week in the West was stressful," Drew said. "We had to travel so far, and deal with the time change."

Arkansas drew 3,000 fans to its first home meet on a rainy evening.

The Lady'Backs' track team gets this week off before helping host the SEC Indoor Championships on Feb. 25-27 in the Randal Tyson Track Center.

Arkansas had several NCAA qualifiers in the Powered by Tyson Invitational, but failed to add anyone to Erica Sigmont's previous 4:44.83 provisional qualifier in the mile run.

Lisa Senakiewich of Michigan State won Saturday night's pedestrian mile in a non-qualifying 4:52.93. Dacia Barr, a UA freshman from Austin, Texas, placed eighth in 4:59.29, while teammate Shiloh Whiting was 12th in 5:03.49.

Arkansas softball coach Jamie Pinkerton had said a 3-2 or 2-3 record in a tournament at Las Cruces, N.M., last week would be acceptable.

With one rainout, the Lady'Backs went 2-2, including an 8-7 win against Purdue and are now 4-5 for the season.

"We only hit .205 our first weekend, but we're running the bases aggressively," Pinkerton said. "We were happy to split with Colorado State that first week -- they're probably better than we are. We only had 20 strikeouts in our first five games, and I can live with that."

This weekend Arkansas goes to Corpus Christi, Texas, for five games against three teams: Texas-Arlington, Sam Houston State and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

The UA women netters, who breezed through their first nine matches, have canceled a match at William & Mary originally scheduled for Saturday and are idle until a four-match homestand against No. 28 South Carolina on March 4, No. 2 Florida on March 6, No. 13 Tennessee on March 11 and No. 4 Georgia on March 13.

Arkansas women's basketball coach Susie Gardner said her team had a good practice Tuesday in preparation for No. 22 Vanderbilt, a team with "no weaknesses."

Gardner called Vandy sophomore Dee Davis one of the top three point guards in the SEC. "She can push the ball," Gardner said.

UA defensive demon Adrienne Bush draws the defensive assignment tonight against Abi Ramsey, perhaps the best pure shooter in the SEC.

The Lady'Backs have continued to take extra shooting practice, but Gardner warned, "Vanderbilt plays a tricky matchup zone that we don't usually see. But Georgia Tech played some matchup and we did OK against it."

Gardner said Arkansas' spirits are much better since wins against Alabama and Georgia Tech in the last two games.

"It's funny how it can turn in two hours sometimes," she said.

Arkansas forward Danielle Allen left Tuesday's practice early, not feeling well, but should be fine tonight, Gardner said.

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