Gym'Backs Nab Third in Home Quad

FAYETTEVILLE -- Freshman Samantha Cortez matched her season high in the concluding floor exercise with 9.875 points, enabling Arkansas to outpoint Oregon State 195.625 to 195.550 for third place in the Arkansas Quad gymnastics meet on Saturday night.

Fifth-ranked UCLA swept the all-around competition and toppled No. 3 Nebraska for first place in the meet, 196.850 to 196.625, despite a perfect 10 by Nebraska senior Richelle Simpson in floor exercise -- just the second 10 ever awarded in Barnhill Arena.

"What an awesome meet!" said Arkansas co-coach Rene Cook. "The crowd was great. Our team stayed focused and had our second best score of the year."

Arkansas sophomore Cassie Drew, who tied her career high of 9.90 on the balance beam, said it felt like the Gym'Backs best meet of the season in terms of energy.

"All week we talked about how we didn't have to be perfect -- we just wanted to have fun and focus on our energy," Drew said. "In quad meets, we always have so much fun. In a dual meet, if someone falls, everyone gasps and you hear it."

Hannah McLeod, who also matched her career best in the beam with 9.875 for Arkansas, added, "A quad has a much faster pace."

McLeod, a junior co-captain, nailed her beam routine by going after it aggressively despite a tender left ankle.

"My entire team was yelling for me," McLeod said. "You have to treat the beam like it's a line on the floor, and not four feet off the floor."

Mallory Machnik and Audra Loveless set the tone for No. 14 Arkansas with vault scores of 9.850 and 9.80, respectively.

Melissa Leigh added a 9.80 on bars, helping Arkansas reach the midway point of the meet with 97.425 points to Oregon State's 97.375.

Oregon State, ranked 12th, had outpointed Arkansas at a tri-meet in Seattle, Wash., this season, but the Gym'Backs reversed that on Saturday partly by scoring a season-high 49.725 points on beam.

Freshman Emily Peacock began the beam with a very good 9.850 for Arkansas. Rachel Barnett then fell and scored just 9.225. But Drew, McLeod, Dana McQuillin (9.850) and Katie Hardman (9.80) ignored the pressure and performed solid routines to keep the Gym'Backs ahead of OSU.

Loveless contributed a 9.80 in floor exercise, Drew delighted the 2,249 fans with a break-dancing moment in her 9.725 routine, and Cortez came back from a slow couple of weeks to deliver a top-notch performance at the end.

UCLA senior Kristen Maloney was the star of the meet with a winning score of 39.600 in the all-around. Her teammates, freshman twins Tasha Schwikert and Jordan Schwikert, were next with 39.525 and 39.500, respectively.

"UCLA and Nebraska could be vying for the national title this year," Cook said. "For us to be within a point of them says a lot about the progress of our program."

Cook added the format of the quad meet should help Arkansas when it enters the Southeastern Conference Championships next Saturday at Duluth, Ga.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories