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.
Gym'Backs getting in rhythm ahead of SEC 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 — For the first time since the University of Arkansas gymnastics rocked Walton Arena in the debut of gymnastics in the big facility in Week 2, the Razorbacks are feeling healthy with the wind at their backs.
Just in time too for third-year Coach Jordyn Wieber’s Razorbacks, who will compete today as the No. 7 seed in the afternoon session of the SEC Championships at Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Ala.
The No. 17 Razorbacks (6-9) went 0-7 in SEC meets for just the second time in the 20th year of the program, but they bounced back to beat Georgia on an elevated stage in a quad meet on March 6, then swept Denver, Nebraska and Oregon State in the Denver Quad meet with a 196.975 last week.
That marked Arkansas’ highest score since a 197.2 at Walton in a loss to current No. 6 Auburn on Jan. 14.
“It kind of feels like we’re getting back in our rhythm,” Wieber said. “I think with all the covid and inconsistencies in the beginning of the season it really took us out of the rhythm that we were in after the preseason.
“It feels like we’re finally back in that rhythm. The team is really meshing out on the competition floor. They’ve always meshed in the gym but they’re really meshing when it comes to competition now, which is allowing them to just go out and hit.”
The Razorbacks, who earned a spot in the evening session last year, will compete against No. 9 Kentucky, No. 11 Missouri and No. 22 Georgia in the 2 p.m. Central meet. No. 2 Florida will be the favorite in the evening session that will also feature No. 5 LSU and co-No. 6s Alabama, the defending SEC champion, and Auburn.
Arkansas will open the meet on the floor exercise and rotate to the vault and bars before finishing on their strongest event, the balance beam.
Wieber has a lofty aim for the Razorbacks’ goal this afternoon.
“I’m hoping we can go out and really dominate that early session of SECs this weekend and use that as another great meet to prepare us for regionals, which is going to be tough no matter where we get seeded,” Wieber said.
“I just hope they can continue to stay in that rhythm and go out confidently. We had a great performance at Denver but we were scored tough, which was not great. But it was really good for us to see what deductions can they take and where can we improve and stick more landings.”
Arkansas all-arounders in senior Kennedy Hambrick (39.19 national qualifying score) and freshman Leah Smith (39.185) rank 42nd and 43rd nationally, but they have shown they can score with the SEC’s best.
The Razorbacks’ top-ranked individual is senior Amanda Elswick, whose 9.915 on the balance beam ranks 19th in the nation.
Arkansas’ top event ranking is the beam, where its 49.275 national qualifying score is 15th in the country. The Razorbacks are also No. 17 on the vault (49.2), No. 22 on the uneven bars (49.16) and No. 25 on the floor exercise (49.275).
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