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.
Gym'Backs fail to advance, season ends
Arkansas gymnastics coach Jordyn Wieber (left) is shown during an NCAA regional on Friday, April 2, 2021, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (Photo courtesy Crimson Tide Photos, via SEC Pool)
The University of Arkansas gymnastics team had a historic season under second-year Coach Jordyn Wieber, but it came to an end at the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional on Saturday.
The No. 10 Razorbacks scored a 196.7 to finish third in the regional behind No. 1 Oklahoma (198.175) and No. 7 Alabama (197.575), and ahead of No. 23 Missouri (196.55).
Oklahoma, the defending NCAA champion from 2019, dealt Alabama its first loss in a home regional. The Sooners, who have won four of the last six NCAA titles, and Crimson Tide advanced to the eight-team NCAA Championships in two weeks in Fort Worth.
Oklahoma’s score of 198.175 was the highest of the postseason to this point.
The Razorbacks posted four 197s this season, including a school-record 197.425 at Auburn, as they continued to build under Wieber.
All-arounders Sarah Shaffer and Kennedy Hambrick led the way for Arkansas, while senior Sophia Carter excelled on two events, as did Maggie O’Hara and Savanah Pennese, who posted a career-high 9.85 on the vault.
Shaffer placed sixth in the all-around with a season-high 39.5, while Hambrick was seventh (39.4). Oklahoma’s Anastasia Webb captured the all-around competition with a 39.7, followed in the top five by Alabama’s Luisa Blanco (39.675), Oklahoma’s Olivia Trautman (39.65), and Alabama’s Emily Gaskins and Missouri’s Sienna Schreiber, who tied for fourth at 39.525.
Trautman posted the night’s lone 10.0, nailing her landing on the vault to get the perfect score.
The Razorbacks got top-five showings from Hambrick, who tied for second on the uneven bars behind Alabama’s Shania Adams (9.975) with a career-high 9.95, and Carter, who tied for fifth on the balance beam at 9.9. Carter also scored 9.9 on the floor exercise, which tied for sixth.
Arkansas, opening on the balance beam, fell behind with a 49.0 and could not make up the lost ground against two of the nation’s top programs.
Oklahoma had a 99.025 at the halfway point, nearly a full point ahead of the Razorbacks’ 98.1.
The Razorbacks were in fourth place heading into the final rotation, but they turned in their best event score of the night with a 49.35 in the bars while the Tigers struggled with a 49.025 on the balance beam.
Gillian Rutz led off the Arkansas bars lineup with a season-best 9.8, which was matched by Kiara Gianfagna in the second spot. After Jensen Scalzo’s otherwise solid routine was penalized by a knee buckle on the landing, the Razorbacks bounced back with three big performances to round out the night.
Shaffer, who had two major deductions on the floor exercise in Friday’s regional semifinal, nailed a 9.9 to complete her strong showing, followed by Hambrick’s 9.95, and a 9.9 from O’Hara, who contributed a big senior season as a graduate transfer.
Florida, Michigan, California and Minnesota qualified for the NCAA Championships at the NCAA regionals held in the Eastern Time Zone. The final two qualifiers will come from the NCAA Salt Lake Regional.
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