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.
Back in Barnhill, Razorbacks set to host West Virginia
Arkansas coach Jordyn Wieber is shown during a meet against Ohio State on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — In the snow-blanketed mountains of Northwest Arkansas, the cozy confines of Barnhill Arena beckon the No. 13 University of Arkansas gymnastics team today as the West Virginia Mountaineers come calling for a 7 p.m. dual meet.
The Razorbacks (1-2) are looking to get back in the win column after dropping meets to Auburn and Florida in their past two outings.
“I think it’s going to be a great feeling being back in Barnhill,” Arkansas Coach Jordyn Wieber said. “It’s obviously very familiar and really homey for us.
“I’m really hopeful that after having such a great attendance in Bud Walton [Arena] that we gathered a few more fans, and … despite the weather hopefully we get a lot of support and a lot of people coming to Barnhill.”
No. 31 West Virginia (2-3) planned rare meet-day travel to start a long weekend that will include the Mountaineers’ quad meet visit to Pittsburgh on Sunday.
“We’re really looking forward to getting on the road for two big meets this weekend,” Mountaineer Coach Jason Butts said. “We’re hoping to get a great road score down in SEC country at Arkansas, then come back to go against our big rival Pitt on Sunday afternoon. We would love to have two great road scores and come out of it hitting 48 routines for the weekend.”
The Razorbacks are coming off a school-record beam set of 49.475 at Florida that capped off a strong second half of the meet after sub-par showings on the uneven parallel bars and vault.
“It felt like at Florida the first event we were a little bit tentative, a little bit nervous,” Wieber said. “It was our first road meet starting on bars. I told the team we just need to start a little bit better. I definitely saw a shift in them after the vault at Florida.”
Arkansas hit an early peak with a 197.2 at the Walton Arena meet against Auburn, but it scored in the mid-195s the week before and the mid-196s last week. Wieber said she is hoping with the team’s covid-19 issues in the past that consistency is around the corner.
“I told the team last week that we’ve seen bits of magic on all four events in all of the three meets,” she said. “I just feel like we see it in practice every day and now my challenge to the team is have them put it all together, all four events in the same meet. That’s really what I’m looking to see.”
The Razorbacks will be led by seniors Kennedy Hambrick, Amanda Elswick, Sarah Shaffer, Bailey Lovett and Maggie O’Hara and freshman all-arounder Leah Smith.
The Mountaineers’ top score has been a 195.725 in a home loss to top 10 Denver on Jan. 21.
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.