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.
Short-handed Razorbacks fall to Kentucky
Arkansas coach Jordyn Wieber is shown during a meet against Ohio State on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas gymnastics team clearly missed ace Kennedy Hambrick on Friday.
With the senior out for the first time in her career due to covid-19 protocols, the No. 14 Razorbacks counted a fall on both the uneven bars and balance beam and fell by more than a point to No. 10 Kentucky, 196.7 to 195.675, before a crowd of 4,139 at Barnhill Arena.
“Kennedy was obviously missed tonight,” Arkansas Coach Jordyn Wieber said. “I was hoping we could go out and still put up six strong routines in every event. It wasn’t our night. We had some consistency issues on bars and beams, but I was really proud of the way they ended on floor.”
The Razorbacks got their lone event victory on the floor exercise with a 49.375, bolstered by event-winning 9.9s from senior Bailey Lovett and freshman Maddie Jones. Arkansas sent only five gymnasts out to the floor, with freshman Leah Smith getting a break from the all-around with a quick turnaround from last Sunday’s win over Southeast Missouri State and senior Sarah Shaffer being a late scratch due to having five solid scores.
Kentucky won its sixth consecutive dual meet over the Razorbacks and has now taken nine of the past 10 meets in the series.
Kentucky junior Raena Worley, the three-time SEC gymnast of the week this season, put on a show with a winning vault of 9.925, and two second-place showings en route to the all-around title with a 39.625.
The Razorbacks had a handful of individual highlights, led by senior Maggie O’Hara returning to form on the uneven bars after a couple off weeks and winning the event with a 9.925.
Jones posted the first 9.9 of her career with the big floor routine.
The Razorbacks also got a 9.825 on the balance beam in the collegiate debut of freshman Kalyxta Gamiao, who is coming back from injury.
“Despite some of the falls, we did have quite a few highlights,” Wieber said. “Maggie coming back on bars and changing her routine and hitting it was awesome.
“Vault was right where it needed to be and consistent with good controlled landings. I’m hoping we can get a few more sticks in the upcoming weeks. We’ve got to stay on the equipment to put up a good score. So we’re gonna go back in the gym and practice and address where we have deductions.”
Shaffer’s vault score of 9.875 was good for second place behind Worley’s 9.925, but it came under scrutiny from former Razorback Sydney McGlone, the color analyst on the ESPN3.com streaming broadcast, who said she thought it should have been higher.
“I agree with Sydney,” Wieber said. “Obviously the scores were very tight on vault in my opinion. They were taking a lot of deductions.”
Wieber said she expected Hambrick to return to practice this week and hopefully be up on some events when the Razorbacks return to action in a rare SEC tri-meet with Missouri and LSU in Columbia, Mo.
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