Gym'Backs Welcome Alabama

A couple of clerical errors affected both No. 11 Arkansas and Alabama in gymnastics last week.

Because of a computer glitch in its order of performers, Arkansas had a deduction of a tenth of a point in its home loss to No. 6 Florida in Barnhill Arena.

Alabama, ranked sixth last week and headed to Arkansas on Friday, was left out of this week's rankings because of a clerical error in the reporting of its score.

Arkansas still managed a 195.475 score -- its third best of the season.

"We'd like to break the 196 mark," said UA co-coach Rene Cook. "We want to attack on vault the way we did last week, and then have everyone do her job the whole competition."

Co-coach Mark Cook said the Gym'Backs would emphasize "rock-solid" landings this week.

"We had an opportunity to challenge Florida, but made some minor errors that most people don't see," Cook said. "I think the tough competition is a plus for our program, but believe me, we still want to win. The wins have to start happening, and they will happen."

Arkansas freshman Mallory Machnik, who was also recruited by Florida and Alabama, chose the Gym'Backs partly because they're a new program.

"I didn't want to go to a program that had already been there and done that," Machnik said. "I liked the coaches and the girls here. We feel like we're so close."

The Gym'Backs, who drew 4,400 fans to Barnhill Arena last week, hope to stay in the top 18 nationally, for NCAA seeding purposes.

"That earns you respect among officials around the country," Rene Cook said. "We want to keep improving these next five weeks."

HARTER TOUTS SEC
Arkansas women's track coach Lance Harter said on the eve of this week's Southeastern Conference Indoor Meet: "The SEC continues to be the dominant conference, by far."

Fans in the Randal Tyson Track Center will see four or five of the top women's teams in the country, Friday through Sunday, in addition to the top men's team (Arkansas).

"The league is loaded with talent and depth," Harter said. "In every event you'll have a national contender or an elite competitor."

Harter handicaps the women's team battle this way: "Florida is the defending champion, Tennessee has the most bullets, LSU is the defending national champion and South Carolina had the best recruiting class. We would be the spoilers, but I kind of like that role."

Aneita Denton of Arkansas has the fastest 800-meter time in the country, Erica Sigmont is strong in the mile, Kasia Williams looks good in the hurdles, Beyonka McDowell is the pentathlon leader and Alison Rush is fastest so far in both the 3,000 and 5,000 meters, although SEC cross country titlist Angela Homan looms for Auburn.

Stacie Manuel of Arkansas paces the league's pole vaulters, and Brandy Blackwood could score in the weight throw that Florida and Georgia usually dominate.

"Every team has to have help -- especially us," Harter said. "But if things come to fruition, this will be our staff's best coaching job."

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