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.
Opener leaves UA all smiles
University of Arkansas gymnast Katherine Grable makes her vault attempt during Friday night's gymnastics meet at Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - The No. 11-ranked Arkansas gymnastics team blasted out of the gate Friday, blowing past Bridgeport and Western Michigan to dominate their season-opening tri-meet.
The Razorbacks won all four events handily and posted a score of 196.2, their second-best season-opening score behind a 196.45 in 2012. Arkansas looked in midseason form on all but the floor exercise and vault before an estimated crowd of 2,067 at Barnhill Arena.
“I think to start the season off with such a strong score kind of reiterates how much potential we have with this team,” Arkansas Co-Coach Rene Lyst said. “This is a phenomenal team.”
Arkansas did not reach a 196.2 last year until Feb. 22, past the midway point of the season. The real battle was for second, with Bridgeport, the NCAA Division II defending champion, posting a 190.85 to edge the Broncos (190.65).
Arkansas’ Katherine Grable won the floor exercise (9.9) and the vault (9.875), propelling the senior to her 13th all-around title with a 39.475, tying her third-best score from the 2013 season. Grable also owns 37 event titles in her career.
“It feels great to start at such a high all-around score,” Grable said. “I think it starts the team off great as well to have such a solid score as a team.”
Freshman Amanda Wellick made a strong debut for the Razorbacks, tying senior teammate Shelby Salmon for the uneven bars title at 9.875 and placing second in the all around with a 39.3. Bridgeport’s Sasha Tsikhanovich was third in the all-around (38.75).
Arkansas sophomore Sydnie Dillard scored a 9.9 from both judges to capture the beam, with Grable taking second place (9.85) and Razorbacks freshmen Wellick and Samantha Nelson tying for third at 9.825.
The Razorbacks did their best work on the bars, where a 9.725 was the low score.
Arkansas did not have a mis-step on its dismounts in the event, with Grable (9.85), sophomore Erin Freier (9.85) and junior Stephanie Canizaro (9.775) kicking in for the team event score of 49.175.
“We’re extremely strong on bars, but to have so many stuck dismounts right off the bat, that was awesome,” Lyst said. “You hope that happens, but it usually takes a little bit of time.”
Dillard’s 9.9 marked her career best on the beam.
“I was very excited to score a 9.9, and hopefully I can continue to do good,” Dillard said. “The whole team on beam this year is amazing.”
The Razorbacks did not have a fall and didn’t even have to count any major mistakes.
“We had a few issues on floor,” Lyst said. “Pretty typical beginning of the season type issues with confidence and managing your adrenaline for a whole minute and 30. It takes a couple of times out there.
“We didn’t count a major mistake. They fought hard, even the routines that had little hiccups. Obviously a great place to start.”
Gymnastics results Friday, at Barnhill Arena, Fayetteville
ARKANSAS (196.2) VAULT (48.975) Heather Elswick 9.775, Bailee Zumwalde 9.725, Stephanie Canizaro 9.75, Scarlett Williams 9.8, Amanda Wellick 9.775, Katherine Grable 9.875
UNEVEN BARS (49.225) Cailee Ellsworth 9.725, Erin Freier 9.85, Canizaro 9.775, Wellick 9.875, Grable 9.85, Shelby Salmon 9.875
BEAM (49.175) Salmon 9.75, Frier 9.775, Wellick 9.825, Sydnie Dillard 9.9, Samantha Nelson 9.825, Grable 9.85
FLOOR EXERCISE (48.825) Zumwalde 9.575, Dillard 9.7, Canizaro 9.6, Elswick 9.8, Wellick 9.825, Grable 9.9
BRIDGEPORT (190.85) BEAM (47.175) Melissa Doucette 9.1, Bethany DiCarlo 8.9, Jenna Hamala-Smith 9.65, Lisa Oakes 8.4, Lisette LaFex 9.725, Sasha Tsikhanovich 9.8
FLOOR EXERCISE (47.85) Hamala-Smith 9.525, LaFex 9.5, Kamri Riles 9.4, Caitlin Perry 9.6, Tsikhanovich 9.625, Doucette 9.6
VAULT (47.6) Perry 8.65, Kimberly Stewart 8.7, LaFex 9.675, Tsikhanovich 9.675, Doucette 9.8, Riles 9.75 UNEVEN BARS (48.225) Doucette 9.475, Leah Goldberg 8.725, Riles 9.675, Christine Liautaud 9.65, Tsikhanovich 9.65, LaFex 9.775
WESTERN MICHIGAN (190.65)
UNEVEN BARS (46.925) Kristen Seldowski 9.0, Jessie Peszek 9.65, Audra Merritt 8.9, Miya Dotson 9.625, Kayla Weber 8.725, Shelby McDonald.
BEAM (48.475) Anna Corbett 9.65, Peszek 9.8, Shelby MacDonald 9.7, Jessi Buis , Kelsey Turnquist 9.65, Weber 9.675.
FLOOR EXERCISE (46.975) Brittany Aragon 9.15, Buis 9.525, Miya Dotson 8.775, Weber 9.3, Merritt , Lauren Bledsoe VAULT (48.275) Corbett 9.575, Lauren Vandenburg 9.6, Aragon 9.6, Weber 9.575, Merritt 9.7, Buis 9.8
Sports, Pages 19 on 01/11/2014