NORMAN, Okla. - The fourth-ranked Oklahoma women's gymnastics team opens its 2011 season Friday as the Sooners host No. 11 Arkansas in Oklahoma's annual "Beauty and the Beast" night, competing side-by-side with the eighth-ranked OU wrestling team at the Lloyd Noble Center at 7 p.m.
"We've been training really hard this preseason and it's time for us to get out there and see what we are capable of," OU head coach K.J. Kindler said. "We need a measuring stick. We need to know where we measure up right now so that we can continue to push forward and make improvements."
Both OU and Arkansas finished last season at the NCAA Championships. OU finished a program-best second place in its first Super Six appearance while the Razorbacks finished 11th.
"I absolutely think that Arkansas is underrated," Kindler said. "They're always incredibly prepared. Their coaches do a phenomenal job getting them mentally and physically prepared for competitions and we expect it to be a very tough competition."
Friday marks the eighth meeting between the two programs, OU holds a 5-2 series lead over Arkansas.
In the last meeting, the Sooners topped the Razorbacks in Fayetteville, Ark., 197.475-196.100, on March 19, 2010 to finish their regular season undefeated.
OU returns nine members from last season's record-breaking squad, including two-time All-American Megan Ferguson and the 2010 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year Natasha Kelley.
OU lost five seniors from the 2010 team and will look to its four newcomers to fill those voids. Freshmen Hope Bruce, Madison Mooring, Taylor Spears and Hayden Ward will all make their Sooner debuts on Friday against Arkansas.
"About 35 percent of our routines are going to be freshmen," Kindler said. "We have a lot of new talent out there and we definitely need to start getting some experience out on the floor."
Friday also marks the second-straight year that OU has opened the season at home. The Sooners are a combined 28-2 at home under head coach K.J. Kindler and have gone undefeated at home in the regular season in three of Kindler's four seasons at OU.
The Sooners are 35-28 all-time in season openers and are 4-2 under Kindler. OU opened last season with an upset over No. 4 Florida in Norman. Then-ranked No. 9 OU posted a team score of 196.250, topping Florida's 195.275.
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ON THE WEB:
Friday's "Beauty and the Beast" event can be seen via a live web cast with commentary from OU gymnastics All-American, Kasie Tamayo, and former OU wrestler and three-time NCAA qualifier, Will Rowe, on Oklahoma All-Access, SoonerSports.com's premium site. Live stats for all meets can be found on SoonerSports.com.
For tickets, call (405) 325-2424 or toll-free (800) 456-GoOU. Tickets can also be purchased at the main ticket office in Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium or at the Lloyd Noble Center on the day of the meet.
Friday's meet is OU's annual "Beauty and the Beast" night with OU wrestling. Fans will have the chance to win an iPad and hundreds of dollars in gift cards. Additionally, fans with an event ticket can take their picture with OU football's 2010 Fiesta Bowl Trophy.
WEEKEND ACTION AROUND THE BIG 12:
Friday, January 7:
No. 13 Missouri vs. West Virginia - 6 p.m. (CT) (Cancun Classic)
No. 10 Nebraska @ No. 3 Florida - 6 p.m. (CT)
No. 22 Iowa State vs. No. 15 Auburn - 7 p.m. (CT)