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.
Hambrick will return to Gym'Backs
Arkansas' Kennedy Hambrick competes on the uneven bars during the NCAA women's gymnastics championships, Thursday, April 14, 2022, in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas gymnastics team and fourth-year Coach Jordyn Wieber have received huge news with senior Kennedy Hambrick announcing that she will return for a final season with the program next year.
One of the most accomplished athletes on the UA campus, Hambrick has represented the Razorbacks at the NCAA Championships the last two seasons in the all-around competition, including a fifth-place finish in 2021.
Hambrick announced her return on Twitter, writing, “Y’all haven’t seen the last of me” followed by a Razorback icon and a heart.
“As soon as I heard that a 5th year was an option, I knew I was going to take it,” Hambrick wrote. “I was ecstatic. I had a chance to do the sport I love for an extra year longer than I was originally given.”
Hambrick has followed senior teammate Bailey Lovett in taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA due to the covid-19 pandemic, which wiped out the 2020 postseason for NCAA gymnastics.
Hambrick, of Pearland, Texas, had a huge junior season in 2021 in which she broke the school all-around record with a 39.75 in a meet against No. 25 Missouri en route to capturing 18 event titles. In that same meet, she tied the school vault record with a 9.975.
Hambrick ranks with Katherine Grable, Jaime Pisani and Casey Jo Magee as the best all-around gymnasts at Arkansas as that quartet owns 24 of the top 25 scores in the 20-year history of the program.
She was a three-time All-American in the 2021 regular season, earning first-team honors in the all-around and second-team honors on vault and the balance beam. At the NCAA championships, she finished fifth on the uneven parallel bars (9.9), sixth on both the balance beam (9.9125) and vault (9.8875) and fifth in the all-around to be named a second-team All-American on each event.
Hambrick missed the first meet of her career during the 2022 season, sitting out a home loss to Kentucky on Feb. 11 as she dealt with covid-19 protocols, which worked their way around the team the first half of the season. She rebounded from that and finished with a 39.275 in the all-around at the SEC championships to tie Auburn freshman Suni Lee, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics all-around gold medalist, for ninth.
She qualified for the NCAA championships by posting a 39.575 at the NCAA Norman Regional semifinals, a performance that included 9.9s on the vault, bars and floor, and a 9.875 on the balance beam.
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.