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.
UA gymnasts look to keep balance at Barnhill
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 University of Arkansas gymnastics team gets right back on the horse tonight against Missouri.
Or in this case, the No. 5 Razorbacks get right back on the beam in the 7:30 p.m. meet against No. 25 Missouri at Barnhill Arena.
The Razorbacks cost themselves the strong potential of a 197 team score and very likely a road win at Kentucky last week by struggling on the balance beam in the final rotation. None of the Arkansas gymnasts came off the apparatus, but their balance checks came one after the other.
“We talked about it after the meet,” Coach Jordyn Wieber said. “What it looked like to me is they saw the scores and they saw the potential of 197 and just wanted to be perfect and wanted to make it happen. Sometimes when you do that on beam, you play tight a little bit.
"Good thing was we stayed on the thing, but we gave away a lot in wobbles.”
The Razorbacks posted a team score of 196.675 to keep its No. 5 ranking for a second consecutive week, but even if they’d finished a tenth lower than their average beam score (which had been 49.269), they would have soared over 197 and won the meet.
Wieber said the team has bounced back, even with a practice schedule disruption due to frigid conditions in Northwest Arkansas this week.
“We were able to have an honest conversation about what happened between floor and beam and what we’re going to do differently next time to avoid a situation like that and just do our normal beam,” Wieber said. “The important thing I think is they don’t let their confidence be shaken and we keep climbing up the mountain that we’re climbing.
"We’re excited to be back home and reset a little bit after the Kentucky meet.”
Prior to the beam issues, Arkansas had a booming first half in Lexington, Ky., posting a season-high tying 49.375 on the uneven bars and a season-high 49.275 on the vault. Their 98.6 at the midway point was the team’s highest total since 2014.
Kennedy Hambrick posted a 39.45 in the all-around, highlighted by a 9.95 on the floor exercise, a 9.925 on the vault and a 9.9 on the bars, while Bailey Lovett posted a 9.9 on the floor and Maggie O’Hara went 9.9 on the bars.
“I think we’re in a good place,” Hambrick said. “We recognize that we did have some mess-ups and we think it’s just because we got in our heads.
“We need to focus on the meet itself, not where we are in the meet, like what event we’re on.”
Lovett said she didn’t want to have the same feeling again, leaving a meet with a ‘what if’ after the final rotation.
“We’re going to take that as a learning experience and just grow from that,” Lovett said. “We’re going to use that to fuel our fire and progressing forward and doing what we need to do.”
The Tigers (1-4), coached by Shannon Welker with former Razorback All-American Casey Jo McPherson as associate head coach, are coming off a season-high 196.175 in a tight win over Auburn in Columbia, Mo., last week.
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