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.
Wieber's Gym'Backs continue to aim high
Arkansas coach Jordyn Wieber watches Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, during the Razorbacks' meet with Alabama in Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — It took the University of Arkansas gymnastics team 10 seasons to notch its first 10 team scores of 197-plus.
The Razorbacks have 10 scores of 197 or better in the past three seasons and they’ll aim for a historic first on that front tonight.
The No. 14 Razorbacks will be trying to post a school-record fourth consecutive 197 or better when they take on No. 11 Kentucky tonight at 7:30 at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Ky. The meet is scheduled for broadcast on the SEC Network.
Arkansas (3-5, 1-3 SEC) is coming off a 197.125 score in a podium meet at the Metroplex Challenge in Fort Worth. While the score was a solid follow-up to a school-record 197.475 in a win over LSU and a 197.4 in a loss to Florida, the Razorbacks lost several tenths.
“It was a good test for us to be back on the road last weekend after two home meets and to put on a pretty good performance,” fourth-year Coach Jordyn Wieber said. “I definitely feel like, and our team knows this, that we could have had a little bit better start on the floor [exercise].”
Half of the Razorbacks’ 20 scores of 197 or better have come under Wieber’s watch since the 2021 season. Arkansas hit 197 or better in three consecutive meets in late February and early March 2021, but the program hasn’t done it four meets in a row.
“The team is continuing to stay motivated and in order for us to continue with those 197 — hopefully mid- to high-197 — scores is just to keep going and be consistent and just allow these young ones to continue feeling confident,” Wieber said.
The influx and contributions from the younger competitors has been a consistent theme for the Razorbacks. First-year gymnasts Lauren Williams, Cally Swaney, Reese Drotar and Jaime Pratt, and second-years Leah Smith, Maddie Jones, Cami Weaver, Frankie Price, Kalyxta Gamaio and Makenzie Sedlacek have meshed with veterans Norah Flatley, Kennedy Hambrick, Bailey Lovett, Kiara Gianfagna, Jensen Scalzo, Madison Hickey and Emma Kelley to provide Wieber and her staff with considerable depth and potential big scoring.
“We’ve got an interesting thing going right now with our lineup, with a lot of people doing one or two events, which is different than you might see other teams doing,” Wieber said. “I think it’s actually a result of our team being very healthy this year and having a lot of lineup options on every event.”
The Razorbacks have been steadily rising in the rankings since having major breakdowns on one event in back-to-back meets against Alabama and Auburn. A big score in the 197 range would further solidify Arkansas in the top 16 when National Qualifying Scores kick in for NCAA Tournament seeding.
Kentucky (6-2, 3-1), led by all-around ace Raena Worley, posted a school-record 197.825 in a win over Alabama on Jan. 27. The Wildcats have won three meets in a row, including a road victory with a 197.275 at Missouri, since falling at Georgia on Jan. 20.
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