FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Pre-season gymnastics rankings are out for 2013 and Arkansas is right where it's accustomed to being, inside the top 12 and expected to advance to the NCAA Championship.
The Razorbacks are coming off a national sixth-place finish in 2012. Arkansas earned a spot in an NCAA Regional for the ninth straight year, moved on to the NCAA Championship for the fifth straight season and the sixth time in seven years, and qualified for the Super Six for the second time in four years.
Arkansas is No. 12 in this year's GymInfo pre-season national rankings. The Razorbacks are regulars at the NCAA Championship with four top 10 finishes in the last five years and eight consecutive top 15 finishes. The top 12 teams each year advance from regionals to the NCAA Championship.
"It is always exciting to get the pre-season rankings, but we know it's not how you start the race but how you finish it," co-head coach René Lyst says. "We have a lot of work ahead of us and we are looking forward to the beginning of the season and our home opener against Georgia in January."
The 2013 squad is led by five All-Americans - seniors Amy Borsellino and Kelci Lewis, juniors Katherine Grable and Bailee Zumwalde, and sophomore Stephani Canizaro.
Borsellino and Lewis were All-Americans in 2011, first-team on vault and second-team on floor, respectively, when Arkansas tied for ninth in the nation. Grable was first-team on floor and second-team on vault in 2011, and first-team on beam and second-team on vault in 2012. Zumwalde and Canizaro were both second-team All-Americans on floor in 2012.
Other returnees are senior Jordan Salsberg, and juniors Shelby Salmon and Scarlett Williams. Newcomers include freshmen Sydnie Dillard, Heather Elswick, Erin Freier and Lillian Hardin. Williams is out for the 2013 season after suffering an injury during fall workouts.
Grable won 15 individual event titles last year, finished sixth on beam in the NCAA individual event finals, and is tied for first on the school's lists with a 39.725 all-around and a 9.95 on beam. She became the first Razorback to earn a No. 1 national ranking in the all-around last season before an injury sidelined her for all or part of four meets.
Grable returned for the NCAA Regional in Barnhill Arena, helping Arkansas finish second to earn a spot in the NCAA Championship. In the NCAA Championship Session II semifinal, Arkansas topped No. 5 Georgia, No. 9 Oregon State and No. 12 Ohio State to make the Super Six.
Arkansas is once again facing a strong schedule and a top-25 ranked opponent every week. Opponents on this year's slate include No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 UCLA, No. 3 Florida, No. 8 LSU, No. 11 Georgia, No. 13 Auburn, No. 20 Denver, No. 21 Missouri, No. 23 Minnesota and No. 25 Kentucky.
"The pre-season rankings have changed a little, but not much over the past five years," co-head coach Mark Cook says. "Last year, we were ranked 11th in the pre-season and finished sixth in the nation. The rankings are based on coach's opinions and that's what they are. As always, we will see how it plays out, but congratulations to all the teams listed."
Arkansas opens at home against No. 11 Georgia on Jan. 11 before traveling to No. 25 Kentucky on Jan. 18.