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.
Protocols could affect UA gymnastics meet
Arkansas coach Jordyn Wieber is shown during a meet against Ohio State on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — Covid-19 protocols are back in the news for the University of Arkansas gymnastics team as the No. 14 Razorbacks prepare to host No. 10 Kentucky.
Coach Jordyn Wieber did not specify which gymnasts might be in the protocols as the Razorbacks take on the Wildcats tonight at 7 at Barnhill Arena.
“Generally, we’re going to see some lineup changes, first and foremost due to covid protocols within the program, and with a few athletes getting healthy and getting back out there,” Wieber said on a video conference Thursday. “There’s still some question marks and some things up in the air. We won’t finalize lineups until tomorrow.”
The Razorbacks, coming off a short week after a win over West Virginia on Sunday, will be looking to push past 197 in consecutive meets for the first time this season while dealing with roster issues that have lurked since the season opener. Arkansas will also be aiming to reverse a trend in the series with Kentucky, which has won five consecutive dual meets and eight of the past nine meetings with the Razorbacks.
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Arkansas freshman Leah Smith is coming off her first all-around title with a 39.425 against West Virginia, just edging senior Kennedy Hambrick (39.375), who scored better than 9.925 on all but the uneven bars, including a school-record tying 9.975 on the balance beam.
“[Leah] had a very solid consistency, but she can still score higher,” Wieber said. “As soon as she comes back in the gym, she asks, ‘Where were my deductions and where do you think I can get better?’ which is a great quality in athletes. I’m excited to see the way she improves this week after her first all-around win because I feel like she’s still getting her feet wet.
“Kennedy had a great week of practice as well. They’re feeling good. We’re trying to balance a short week with getting a good amount of rest and still doing the things we need to do in the gym.”
The Razorbacks will be up against the nation’s No. 6 all-around gymnast in Kentucky junior Raena Worley, who averages 39.681 and has scored 39.6 or better in all four meets, including a school-record tying 39.75 two weeks ago.
Kentucky has exceeded 196.2 in all of its meets and has scored 197.45 in each of its past two competitions — a dual-meet SEC win over Missouri on Jan. 29, and a quad-meet sweep of Georgia, Illinois and Central Michigan last Friday. The Wildcats have competed away from home just once, in a 197.65 to 196.275 loss at Alabama on Jan. 21.
Wieber said super senior Sarah Shaffer would likely add the vault and possibly the balance beam onto her duties tonight after being strategically limited to the uneven bars last week, which she won with a 9.925.
While senior event specialist Abby Johnston is still questionable with an unspecified injury, freshman Kalyxta Gamiao might be healthy enough to make her collegiate debut, possibly on the balance beam.
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