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. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Razorback gymnasts look to regroup at regional
Arkansas gymnast Kennedy Hambrick competes during an NCAA gymnastics meet against LSU on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021 in Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Tyler Kaufman)
FAYETTEVILLE — The Arkansas Razorbacks’ first postseason performance under second-year gymnastics Coach Jordyn Wieber was a forgettable one two weeks ago at the SEC Championships.
The No. 10 University of Arkansas hopes to put that mistake-filled, sub-196 showing in its rear-view mirror today when the Razorbacks compete at the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional.
The Razorbacks will take on host and No. 7 Alabama along with No. 19 Iowa and No. 19 Iowa State in today’s afternoon session at 1 p.m. at Coleman Coliseum. The top two teams from the afternoon session and the 7 p.m. session, which features No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 23 Missouri and Maryland, will advance to a four-team regional final on Saturday.
No. 16 Auburn was scheduled to compete in the night session, but the Tigers bowed out due to covid-19 complications within their program.
Arkansas placed seventh at the SECs with a season-low 195.6, as the Razorbacks had to count numerous major errors. The two weeks of preparation for Wieber’s first NCAA regional as a head coach helped to redirect the team’s focus.
The Razorbacks will be without a key member, as sophomore Bailey Lovett, a big scorer on floor exercise and the balance beam, has been ruled out due to increasing pain in her elbow, for which she has worn a brace all season.
“Obviously SECs wasn’t our night,” Wieber said. “We had to switch up some lineups and all in all, coming back into the gym, the team has reset very strongly I would say. They’ve looked good in the gym.
“I’m proud of the way the team has responded to a tough meet like SECs. It would have been easy for them to kind of give up and say that’s our story. But they very quickly reset and said, ‘That’s not the way our story ends this season. We’ve got more to accomplish.’”
The Razorbacks will again be led by junior All-American Kennedy Hambrick, who had a tough night at the SEC meet in Huntsville, Ala., but still maintains the nation’s No. 7 ranking in the all-around. Senior Sophia Carter stepped into Lovett’s spot on the uneven bars and performed well, then added strong routines on the beam and the floor as Arkansas’ top performer in the meet.
Wieber said the Razorbacks got a tough draw in Tuscaloosa, but a good setup, as they will start on the bars, the same apparatus on which they started every away meet.
“We have three other really great teams in our session, which is going to challenge us,” she said. “We’ve got to be ready. We have to not only be hitting our routines, but sticking our dismounts and picking up those little half-tenths here and there.
“The team is very aware of that. I think going to Tuscaloosa, staying in the SEC is an advantage for us in that we’re used to that environment. We’re used to that arena, so it’s not going to be new to most of our athletes. Regardless of where we are and who we’re competing against, we want to do our jobs and do our gymnastics to the best of our ability.”
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