Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
Beam a bummer for UA gymnasts
Arkansas' Katherine Grable competes in the floor exercise during the NCAA Gymnastics Regional Saturday, April 5, 2014, in Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - The Arkansas gymnasts were right where they wanted to be after two events at the NCAA Fayetteville Regional on Saturday.
Then came the ever tricky beam, and three mistakes in rapid order ruined the Razorbacks’ chances of advancing to the NCAA Championships for the seventh consecutive season.
No. 1 seed Utah overcame an average start on bars and beam and won the regional with a 197.3, while UCLA scored 196.6 to edge out the Razorbacks (196.375) for the second and final place at nationals.
“We’re obviously extremely disappointed,” Arkansas Co-Coach Rene Lyst said. “But kind of how we competed most of the year, we’d have three great events and one event not so great. Unfortunately, today it was beam, which it hadn’t been all year.”
Utah and UCLA advanced to the NCAA Championships, which will take place April 18-20 in Birmingham, Ala.
“I don’t think we were spectacular today, but we were good all the way through,” said Utah Coach Greg Marsden, a Clarksville native who was back in Fayetteville for the first time in nearly 40 years. “Everybody feels a lot of pressure for this particular meet, because it’s one and done. You’re either first or second in this meet or you go home. … So I think you saw a little bit of nerves from all of the teams tonight.”
UCLA Coach Valorie Kondos Field said she was proud of her team’s performance in the regional.
“We’ve been up and down all season and we’ve suffered quite a few injuries … but the fight in them is just so amazing,” she said.
Arkansas senior Katherine Grable won the vault with a 9.95, tied for the title on floor exercise (9.95) with UCLA’s Olivia Courtney and Utah’s Nansy Damianova, and placed second in the all around (39.675) to UCLA’s Samantha Peszek (39.7).
Arkansas freshman Amanda Wellick scored 39.0 in the all-around and will advance with Grable as individual competitors to the NCAA championships.
The Razorbacks were in second place after scoring 49.375 on their second rotation, the uneven bars, tying their third-best score in school history.
“I thought we were going to win after two events because I’d been so confident in our beam performance all year that that occurrence never crossed my mind,” Lyst said.
“After bars I felt amazing,” Grable said. “I was like, ‘We are definitely going to get this.’ I thought we could have even knocked off Utah, to be honest.”
But the jitters came after their first bye when they went up on beam. Senior Shelby Salmon scored a 9.725 in the lead position, but Erin Freier fell off the apparatus. Wellick (9.6) and Sydnie Dillard (9.55) had key mistakes that had to be scored, and the Razorbacks faltered with a 48.475 on the event, their second-lowest score of the season.
“We started so strong on vault and bars and I just think we didn’t carry that momentum to beam,” Grable said.
“I didn’t think it would happen on beam either,” Wellick said. “We were so confident and so prepared on that event. We just got up there and maybe let some nerves get to us.”
The Razorbacks still had a small opening, trailing UCLA by 0.3 points heading into the final rotation with Arkansas on the floor and UCLA on beam. The Bruins made only one major mistake on the apparatus when Ellette Craddock came off the 4-inch beam, but that was after the first five UCLA gymnasts hung on, meaning Craddock’s score was tossed out.
“I was really proud of them to come back on beam and just nail beam like they did,” Kondos Field said. “We had to stay on, and I just told them, ‘Now let’s see what you’re made of.’ ”
Grable capped the meet with another big floor exercise, scoring 9.95, but by then the Razorbacks could not catch UCLA.
UCLA’s Peszek captured the bars and the beam with scores of 9.95, helping her take the all-around title.
FAYETTEVILLE REGIONAL TEAM POINTS
Arkansas ...................... 196.375
Arizona State .........................194.425
UC Davis ...............................193.900
Utah State .............................191.875Team scores (event by event)
TEAM VAULT BARS BEAM FLOOR ALL-AROUND Utah 49.325 49.250 49.200 49.525 197.300 UCLA 49.125 48.750 49.200 49.525 196.600 Arkansas 49.250 49.375 48.475 49.275 196.375 Arizona State 48.875 47.900 48.775 48.875 194.425 UC Davis 48.600 48.625 47.850 48.825 193.900 Utah State 48.725 46.300 47.775 49.075 191.875Arkansas scores (event by event)
GYMNAST VAULT BARS BEAM FLOOR ALL-AROUND Stephani Canizaro 9.725 9.875 - - - Sydnie Dillard - - 9.550 9.825 - Heather Elswick 9.750 - - 9.875 - Erin Freier - 9.825 9.075 - - Keara Glover - 9.800 - - - Katherine Grable 9.950 9.900 9.875 9.950 39.675 Samantha Nelson - - 9.725 9.850 - Shelby Salmon - 9.875 9.725 - - Amanda Wellick 9.900 9.900 9.600 9.600 39.00 Scarlett Williams 9.850 - - - - Bailee Zumwalde 9.800 - - 9.775 - Team totals 49.250 49.375 48.475 49.275 196.375
Sports, Pages 25 on 04/06/2014