2018 Season Begins With Road Tilt At No. 3 LSU

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - The 19th-ranked Arkansas gymnastics team will begin its 2018 campaign in Baton Rouge, La. with a Southeastern Conference matchup against defending conference champion LSU at 7:25 p.m. on the SEC Network.

The matchup against No. 3 LSU is Arkansas’ first of nine matchups against preseason top-20 ranked teams, including the first of four contests against the top four on the road. Road to Nationals pegged the Razorbacks with the second hardest schedule in the nation during the preseason.

“It definitely will make you rise to the occasion,” head coach Mark Cook said. “We have the second hardest schedule in the country by Road To Nationals. We embrace that. This is starting it off really hard, but it will give us a chance to see where we’re at.”

Friday’s meet marks just the second time in program history that the Razorbacks will start the season against a conference foe in a dual meet and the first time opening against a top 5 opponent since beginning the 2015 season against No. 4 Oklahoma.

The Razorbacks are coming off of their 12th-consecutive top 20 finish in 2017, despite an injury riddled year that saw Arkansas take third in the 2017 NCAA Fayetteville Regional.

“We’re in a lot better shape than we were last year,” Cook continued. “This team has worked really, really hard this preseason. We’re pleased with our progress.”
Redshirt senior All-American Amanda Wellick returns after suffering a season-ending injury in January of last season and missed what would’ve been her senior season. She has since returned to the gym and will be in Arkansas’ lineup this Friday.

Arkansas also welcomes back NCAA Individual participants Braie Speed and Jessica Yamzon. Speed posted a 9.825 on the vault at NCAA’s, tying her third-best score from last season. Yamzon earned a spot at the NCAA Championships last season as a freshman, scoring a 38.925 in the all-around.

The Razorbacks are one of two teams in the SEC to have six freshman on its roster this season. Arkansas welcomes five newcomers to go along with redshirt freshman Sarah Schaffer who missed last season with a preseason injury.

“We have a lot of individuals that bring a lot of expertises on different events,” Cook said. “We were really pleased to get Schaffer back, she’s going to be a game changer on our team as well.”

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