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 gym aims to advance at regional
Arkansas gymnastics coach Jordyn Wieber is shown during a timeout in the Razorbacks' 87-43 basketball victory over Missouri on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022, in Fayetteville.
The University of Arkansas gymnastics team will have to upset two teams tonight at the Norman (Okla.) Regional to keep its season alive and advance to the NCAA Championships.
The No. 18 Razorbacks will take on No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 8 Minnesota and No. 9 California today at 5 p.m. at OU’s Lloyd Noble Center with the top two teams moving on to the championships at Fort Worth in two weeks.
Arkansas posted a 196.975 in Thursday’s semifinal, the second-highest NCAA regional score in school history behind a 197.25 last season. That was well behind the Sooners’ 198.175, but enough to dispatch Arizona and Arizona State. The Razorbacks set a school regional records on the uneven bars (49.45) to open the meet and on the floor exercise (49.375).
Third-year Arkansas Coach Jordyn Wieber said she knows there is room for improvement.
“We can definitely be a lot more solid on beam,” Wieber said. “It’s a true test of how you handle pressure on an event like that. I’m hoping they’ll be a little more comfortable with the environment on day two and a little more comfortable with the equipment. Hopefully we’ll warm up a little better.”
Senior Kennedy Hambrick led Arkansas with a session-winning 39.575 in the all-around Thursday, while seniors Sarah Shaffer and Bailey Lovett had podium finishes on the bars and the floor exercise, respectively.
The Razorbacks will not have Leah Smith for the all-around after the freshman had a tough landing on the floor Thursday that hurt her ankle and did not allow her to finish the event. Wieber said Smith’s X-ray came back clean, but she is not expected to go up on any more than two events.
Arkansas will start the night on the beam, where their 49.075 was their lowest event score of the night on Thursday.
The Razorbacks are the only unseeded team to reach the regional finals and have the 14th highest national qualifying score of the 16 teams competing in regional finals, including Florida, Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky and Missouri from the SEC.
“Something the team has bought into is if we go out and hit our routines then if a door opens we’ll be ready to walk through it,” Wieber said. “Anything can happen when it comes to this postseason format. We saw that happen with LSU not making the second day when they were anticipated to make nationals.
“It’s never over until it’s over. If we go out and do what we’re capable of as a team then anything can happen.”
Arkansas has had very little success defeating Oklahoma, which has won four national championships in the past 17 years, as the Sooners hold a 19-1 record in the series.
However, the Razorbacks hold a 6-3 edge in the all-time series with Minnesota and a 4-0 mark against California.
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