SEC gymnastics championships:

Razorbacks hope big score a catalyst

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Saturday, March 24, 2018
Arkansas gymnast Amanda Wellick performs on the beam during a meet against Georgia on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018, at Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Charlie Kaijo
Arkansas gymnast Amanda Wellick performs on the beam during a meet against Georgia on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018, at Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The No. 11 Arkansas Razorbacks will try to ride the momentum of a school-record performance last week into their first top-three finish at the SEC championships today.

The University of Arkansas, Fayetteville is the top-ranked team in the 2 p.m. session at the Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis and will face No. 16 Auburn, No. 18 Georgia and No. 21 Missouri. The night session will feature the league's heavy hitters in No. 2 LSU, No. 5 Florida, No. 6 Alabama and No. 9 Kentucky.

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SEC Gymnastics championships

When 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. today

Where Chaifetz Arena, St. Louis

What The SEC’s eight gymnastics programs compete in two sessions for the conference title, won last year in Jacksonville, Fla. by LSU

Session I 2 p.m. (SECN) No. 11 Arkansas, No. 16 Auburn, No. 18 Georgia, No. 21 Missouri

Session II 6 p.m. (ESPN2) No. 2 LSU, No. 5 Florida, No. 6 Alabama, No. 9 Kentucky

Rankings (by Regional Qualifying Scores) No. 2 LSU 197.89, No. 5 Florida 197.365, No. 6 Alabama 197.165, No. 9 Kentucky 196.8, No. 11 Arkansas 196.765, No. 16 Auburn 196.595, No. 18 Georgia 196.47, No. 21 Missouri 196.375

Team rankings

Vault No. 3 Florida 49.415, No. 5 LSU 49.39, No. 6 Alabama 49.275, No. 12 Kentucky 49.17, No. 15 Auburn 49.13, No. 20 Missouri 49.085, No. 21 Georgia 49.075, No. 23 Arkansas 49.055

Uneven bars No. 1 LSU 49.58, No. 3 Florida 49.455, No. 5 Alabama 49.415, No. 6 Arkansas 49.34, No. 12 Kentucky 49.24, No. 15 Georgia 49.215, No. 18 Auburn 49.205, No. 26 Missouri 49.14

Balance beam No. 3 LSU 49.475, No. 5 Florida 49.365, No. 6 Alabama 49.34, No. 9 Kentucky 49.295, No. 10 Arkansas 49.27, No. 12 (tie) Auburn and Georgia 49.2, No. 21 Missouri 49.13

Floor exercise No. 2 LSU 49.54, No. 5 Florida 49.42, No. 10 Kentucky 49.315, No. 11 Alabama 49.3, No. 15 Georgia 49.29, No. 17 Arkansas 49.26, No. 22 Missouri 49.24, No. 24 Auburn 49.215

All around (top 50)

No. 4 Sarah Finnegan (LSU) 39.645, No. 5 Myia Hambrick (LSU) 39.615, No. 9 Alicia Boren (Fla) 39.535, No. 10 Kennedi Edney (LSU) 39.515, No. 13 Mollie Korth (UK) 39.47, No. 18 Alex Hyland (UK) 39.425), No. 20 Rachel Dickson (UGA) 39.42, No. 27 Sydney Snead (UGA) 39.365, No. 35 Sarah Shaffer (Ark) 39.31, No. 44 Jessica Yamzon (Ark) 39.255, No. 49 Aspen Tucker (Mizz) 39.24

Top Arkansas performers (top 100)

Vault No. 18 Braie Speed 9.89, No. 52 Shaffer 9.86, No. 79 Amanda Wellick 9.84

Uneven bars No. 25 Speed 9.895, No. 38 Wellick 9.88, No. 65 Shaffer 9.865, No. 72 Sydney Laird 9.86

Balance beam No. 20 Sophia Carter 9.9, No. 27 Michaela Burton 9.895, No. 64 Yamzon 9.865, No. 96 Wellick 9.84

Floor exercise No. 24 Shaffer 9.905, No. 87 Carter 9.865, No. 100 Yamzon 9.86

Noteworthy

Arkansas improved its regional qualifying score by nearly a full point (0.99) from last season’s 195.775 to this year’s 196.765. … The Razorbacks had a 2-5 record in dual meets in the SEC, with home victories over Georgia (197.175-196.125) and Auburn (196.75-194.875). … Arkansas finished in last place at the 2017 SEC championships in Jacksonville, Fla., the program’s first last-place finish since tying Kentucky in that spot in its inaugural season of 2003.

Arkansas (5-10-1) posted a program-best 197.3 in a tri-meet victory at Barnhill Arena last week and would like to cement its status as a No. 2 seed in the upcoming NCAA regionals. The Razorbacks could do that with another big score.

"Our team is really excited for SECs," Arkansas assistant coach Jaime Armbrust said. "It's a fun meet with a lot of energy, and I think coming off the momentum from senior night last weekend will really help us have a great meet."

The Razorbacks posted their best finish at the SECs in 2011, Armbrust's junior season at Arkansas, with a third-place showing and a 195.8 score.

Arkansas has prepped itself for the distractions of a four-team competition by participating in a pair of quad meets and last week's tri meet. The Razorbacks also have competed on the kind of raised podium they'll see at today's meet at the Mardi Gras Invitational in St. Charles, Mo., on Feb. 16.

"It really helps a lot, especially our last two meets being quad and tri meets," Armbrust said. "It helps the flow and energy within our team. It helps you stay on pace."

Armbrust said the earlier podium meet, in which Arkansas had two major mistakes on the floor and had to count a 9.525 on the vault, can serve as motivation.

"We had some errors in that meet, and we're really looking to attack those and be more prepared for the meet this weekend," she said. "We know the adjustments we need to make."

The Razorbacks will be led by seniors Amanda Wellick and Braie Speed, and all-arounders in sophomore Jessica Yamzon and freshman Sarah Shaffer. Speed is the reigning SEC specialist of the week, and Shaffer pulled down SEC freshman of the week honors after scoring a season-best 39.5, including a 9.95 on the floor exercise, last week.

"I'm so proud of Braie," Armbrust said. "I think this is well-deserved and well-earned. She's been so consistent and outstanding on vault and bars this season.

"And Sarah Shaffer, getting her back in the beam lineup really helped our confidence going into SECs this weekend."

The Razorbacks' top rankings come on the uneven bars, where they are sixth in the country and fourth in the conference with a 49.34 regional qualifying score; and the balance beam, where they are fifth in the SEC and 10th nationally at 49.29.

Sports on 03/24/2018

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