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.
UA knows details make a difference
Arkansas gymnast Sydnie Dillard during a gymnastics meet on Friday, Jan. 10, 2014 at Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - The No. 10 Arkansas gymnastics team has scored 196 or better in all three of its meets this season, but the Razorbacks might have to perform much better than their 196.117 average to beat No. 12 Auburn tonight.
The Tigers arrive at Barnhill Arena having just posted a program-best road score of 196.85 in a loss last Saturday at LSU.
“I would say it’s going to be a battle,” Arkansas co-Coach Mark Cook said. “They’re going to come in here definitely trying to upset us.”
The Razorbacks (3-1, 1-1 SEC) have not had to count a fall and have been remarkably consistent, scoring between 196.05 and 196.2 in all three of their meets, but they also have produced minor errors for small deductions throughout the season.
Arkansas senior Katherine Grable, the nation’s No. 4 all-arounder, said she and her teammates are well aware of Auburn’s prowess and the improvements Arkansas must make from last week’s 196.1 losing score at Alabama.
“It’s going to be a hard meet, but we’re ready to work hard,” Grable said. “We’ve been working this week on little details that we noticed from Alabama that we need to work on. Putting those in the meet, I think we’re going to be in a really good spot.”
Grable and freshman Amanda Wellick are projected to compete in the all-around, and the Razorbacks should get a lift from sophomore Erin Freier, who missed the meet at Alabama after suffering a concussion last week in practice.
Grable, of Oshkosh, Wisc., is off to a hot start. A five-time All-American with 52 career event titles, Grable has won the all-around, vault and floor exercise titles in all three meets this month and has scored 39.475 or higher in the all-around in all three.
Her 39.492 average in the all-around is fourth behind NCAA leader Rheagan Courville (39.525) of LSU.
“It’s just a matter of being consistent and going out there and hitting it, and I foresee her being back on top again during the season,” Cook said.
Grable has upgraded her skills on a couple of events this season and has scored nothing lower than a 9.85 on her 12 scored routines in meets.
“On bars I added a half [twist] to my dismount, and bars is my weakest event, so adding that and also changing a couple of little technical things on bars I think really helped me get stronger on that event,” Grable said. “Then on floor, I added a half [twist] to my first pass, so I think that just kind of gives my routine a little bit of a ‘wow’ factor.”
Arkansas senior Shelby Salmon has posted two event titles on the bars this year, and Wellick, who won the bars title in her first meet, has posted a 39.3 in the all-around and scored a 9.875 vault at Alabama last week. Sophomore Sydnie Dillard posted a team-high 9.9 on the beam for an event title in the season-opening tri-meet.
Auburn, led by all-arounders Caitlin Atkinson and Bri Guy, has built roster depth under fourth-year Coach Jeff Graba. The Tigers, like Arkansas, are in the midst of pushing the SEC’s reigning powers like defending NCAA champion Florida, Alabama, Georgia and LSU.
Auburn’s average score this season is 195.983, while its season-best of 196.85 is 10th.
Gymnastics glance ARKANSAS VS. AUBURN WHEN 7 p.m. today WHERE Barnhill Arena, Fayetteville RECORDS Auburn 1-2, 0-2 SEC; Arkansas 3-1, 1-1 SEC RANKINGS Arkansas is No. 10; Auburn is No.
12 TICKETS $6 general admission, $4 17 and younger, $2 groups of 10 or more
TOP ATHLETES ALL-AROUND No. 4 Katherine Grable (Arkansas) 39.492, No. 17 Amanda Wellick (Arkansas) 39.217, No. 22 Caitlin Atkinson (Auburn) 39.167, Bri Guy (Auburn) 39.15 VAULT No. 9 (tie) Grable (Arkansas) 9.908, No. 9 (tie) Guy (Auburn) 9.908, No. 12 M.J.
Rott (Auburn) 9.9, No. 21 Atkinson (Auburn) 9.883, No. 63 Wellick (Arkansas) 9.833, No.
93 Lexus Demers (Auburn) 9.808 BARS No. 19 Atkinson (Auburn) 9.867, No.
30 Shelby Salmon (Arkansas) 9.85, No. 58 Grable (Arkansas) 9.817, No. 67 Wellick (Arkansas) 9.808, No. 95 Kelsey Kopec (Auburn) 9.783 BEAM No. 11 Sydnie Dillard (Arkansas) 9.875, No. 14 (tie) Grable (Arkansas) 9.858, Megan Walker (Auburn) 9.858, No. 78 (tie) Samantha Nelson (Arkansas) 9.767, Salmon (Arkansas) 9.767, No. 86 Erin Freier (Arkansas) 9.762, No. 94 Demers (Auburn) 9.75 FLOOR No. 9 Grable (Arkansas) 9.908, No.
17 Guy (Auburn) 9.892, No. 22 Atkinson (Auburn) 9.883, No. 49 Rott (Auburn) 9.842, No. 83 (tie) Heather Elswick (Arkansas) 9.808, Demers (Auburn) 9.808, No. 91 Wellick (Arkansas) 9.8.
NOTEWORTHY Arkansas holds a 13-10 advantage in the alltime series. … Auburn won last year’s dual meet 196.325 to 195.625 at Auburn, and edged the Razorbacks 196.55 to 196.4 at the SEC championships in North Little Rock. … Auburn’s M.J. Rott is the reigning SEC freshman of the week.
Sports, Pages 19 on 01/31/2014