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 trying to put it all together
Arkansas head coach Jordyn Wieber 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 jumped from No. 15 to No. 6 in the national rankings after a nice opening score at LSU and they've stayed in the top 10 every week since.
The No. 8 Razorbacks (2-5) will try to stay there heading into the postseason after tonight's regular season finale at No. 12 Auburn.
Arkansas has scored 197 or better three times, including a program record 197.35 two weeks ago in a win over Missouri at Barnhill Arena. The Razorbacks hit 197 on the nose in a home loss to Alabama last week, but the meet included a 48.85 on the vault, the fifth time in seven meets Arkansas has posted a sub-49.0 on one event.
Smoothing over those dips is uppermost on second-year Coach Jordyn Wieber's mind.
"I feel like we've got all the pieces to the puzzle," Wieber said. "What we need to is put it all together in one meet. So far this season we've always kind of had one event that isn't where it needs to be."
The NCAA's national qualifying score kicked in this week, meaning a team's ranking is determined by averaging its top two home scores and top two road scores.
The Razorbacks fell two spots from the week before and could use a big finale because they are still counting a 196.675 in a road loss at Kentucky.
"We're really looking to get another solid away score to replace one of our others that we have," Wieber said. "That's our goal this week and we're also looking forward to a bye week next week, so kind of giving it everything we've got this week and pushing.
"The motto for this week is to just go up and hit 24 of 24. We know if we do that the scores will follow."
Auburn shot up six spots to No. 12 nationally after posting a season-high road score of 197.025 in a loss at Florida last week.
"It was so important to get a huge road score before NQS started and we did that last Friday," Auburn Coach Jeff Graba said. "Our position now puts us in a good place because we're getting closer to locking a seeded spot at Regionals."
The meet should feature a spirited competition in the all-around, with Arkansas junior Kennedy Hambrick, the nation's No. 9 all-arounder, and No. 25 ranked senior Sarah Shaffer competing against Auburn junior Derrian Gobourne, who is No. 21.
The rivalry between the Razorbacks and Tigers is the tightest on the Arkansas books, with Auburn holding a 19-18 edge overall, including a 5-4 mark in home meets.
The Razorbacks have a higher scoring average than Auburn on every apparatus, including a wide disparity on the floor exercise, where Arkansas is No. 2 with a 49.363 NQS and Auburn is No. 21 (49.194).
No. 8 Arkansas at No. 12 Auburn
WHEN 7 p.m. Central
WHERE Auburn Arena, Auburn, Ala.
RECORDS Arkansas 2-5 SEC; Auburn 1-6
SERIES Auburn leads 19-18 overall, 5-4 at Auburn
INTERNET SEC Network-Plus
COACHES Jordyn Wieber (second year at Arkansas); Jeff Graba (11th year at Auburn)
EVENTS Vault: No. 10 Arkansas 49.238, No. 14 Auburn 49.125; Uneven bars: No. 7 Arkansas 49.331, No. 10 Auburn 49.313; Balance beam: No. 8 Arkansas 49.288, No. 13 Auburn 49.194; Floor exercise: No. 2 Arkansas 49.463, No. 21 Auburn 49.194.
TOP ATHLETES (top 100)
VAULT: No. 8 Kennedy Hambrick (UA) 9.919, No. 17 Derrian Gobourne (AU) 9.894, No. 23 Drew Watson (AU) 9.888, No. 31 Amanda Elswick (UA) 9.875, No. 48 Sarah Shaffer (UA) 9.856, No. 73 Abby Johnston (UA) 9.838, No. 92 Jordan Olszewski (UA) 9.825.
BARS: No. 6 Maggie O’Hara (UA) 9.919, No. 11 Gobourne (AU) 9.9, No. 21 Hambrick (UA) 9.888, No. 31 Piper Smith (AU) 9.881, No. 57 Shaffer (UA) 9.869, No. 95 Kiara Gianfagna (UA) 9.844, No. 99 Bailey Lovett (UA) 9.838.
BEAM: No. 9 Hambrick (UA) 9.938, No. 11 Gabby McLaughlin (AU) 9.919, No. 27 Lovett (UA) 9.894, No. 51 Meredith Sylvia (AU) 9.875, No. 51 O’Hara (UA) 9.875, No. 99 Sophia Carter (UA) and Cassie Stevens (AU) 9.838.
FLOOR: No. 3 Gobourne (AU) 9.944, No. 8 Hambrick (UA) 9.931, No. 17 Lovett (UA) 9.919, No. 22 Carter (UA) 9.913, No. 36 Shaffer (UA) 9.894, No. 46 Johnston (UA) 9.888, No. 70 Stevens (AU) 9.863.
ALL-AROUND: No. 9 Hambrick (UA) 39.525, No. 21 Gobourne (AU) 39.313, No. 25 Shaffer (UA) 39.288.
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.