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.
Razorbacks face LSU, Missouri in rare tri-meet
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.
FAYETTEVILLE — No meet better typifies the hectic, disruptive season for the University of Arkansas gymnastics team than today’s noon SEC tri-meet against LSU and host Missouri at the Hearnes Center in Columbia, Mo.
The competition is a mash-up of previously postponed meets on back-to-back weekends in January. Coronavirus issues prevented LSU from making the trip to Missouri on Jan. 14, and covid-19 protocols kept Arkansas from traveling to Baton Rouge the following week.
Now the three will get together for a conference competition that will mark the first SEC tri-meet in Arkansas gymnastics history.
The Razorbacks had competed in a regular season meet with both LSU and Missouri at the Mardi Gras Invitational on Feb. 16, 2018, but George Washington University was also at the competition, making it a quad meet.
The No. 16 Razorbacks (2-3, 0-3 SEC) will be an underdog for multiple reasons, such as their 23-meet losing streak to No. 5 LSU and the fact that No. 11 Missouri is at home, where the Tigers blew up with a 197.65 in their last meet, a narrow loss to Florida, on Feb. 4.
Additionally, the Razorbacks can’t be certain how many events ace all-around gymnast Kennedy Hambrick can go up on after missing last week’s loss to Kentucky due to covid protocols. Arkansas had to count falls on both the uneven bars and the balance beam, which had been the Razorbacks’ strongest event, as the lineup depth underwent its most serious challenge of the season.
Speaking after last week’s home loss to Kentucky, third-year Arkansas Coach Jordyn Wieber said Hambrick should be back in some capacity this week.
“We’re hoping she’ll be at full strength by next Sunday,” Wieber said. “But we obviously want to put her health and safety as No. 1, and we’ll just have to see how she looks coming out of quarantine. Hopefully in the meantime a few more people can step up.”
LSU, under second-year Coach Jay Clark, will be competing for the second time this weekend, following a massive 198.05 in Friday’s win over Alabama. The Tigers had a 197.825 last week in a loss at No. 4 Florida, which soared to 198.15.
The Razorbacks have not beaten LSU in any competition for more than a decade, since a dual meet win in Fayetteville in January 2012.
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