Tom Murphy is a sports 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. He was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Gym'Backs pushing toward high marks
Arkansas coach Jordyn Wieber watches Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, during the Razorbacks' meet with Alabama in Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — Coach Jordyn Wieber said she thinks the Arkansas gymnasts are on the brink of soaring into a new scoring stratosphere in her fourth season at the helm.
The No. 17 University of Arkansas will look to take another jump toward those heights with today’s 8 p.m. meet against No. 15 Missouri at Barnhill Arena. It will be televised on the SEC Network.
The Razorbacks (3-6, 1-4 SEC) were in position to post another school-record score last week at Kentucky while holding a lead of 0.05 entering the last event after posting a program-record 49.525 on the vault.
Then four consecutive gymnasts between Kalyxta Gamaio and Norah Flatley came off the balance beam, and an upset of the Wildcats along with a shot at a school-record fourth score in the 197s was off the board, similar to the Razorbacks’ week three competition at No. 7 Auburn.
With three meets remaining in the regular season, it’s imperative for Arkansas to put more 197s on the board to eliminate a 195.4 from its National Qualifying Score calculation, which drops a team’s highest and lowest scores.
“Hopefully after this weekend we’ll be able to drop the 195 score that we’re still counting on our NQS, which will help us tremendously,” Wieber said. “Really just putting another full meet together and pushing that 197.5. I mean, it’s in us. We’re capable of it. We just have to put it out there at one time.”
Had the Razorbacks scored their average of 49.18 on the beam at Kentucky, they would have exceeded their school record score of 197.475, accomplished four weeks ago in a win over No. 8 LSU.
“It’s hard to end on beam in an away competition,” Wieber said. “That’s no excuse. We should be able to do it just because we know at any postseason meet we could end on beam, we could start on beam. It doesn’t matter. We need to be able to do the job.
“There was some negative feelings about the equipment and just I think some past stuff where I think … this program has not historically done well finishing on the beam at Kentucky, and I think they kind of let that negativity affect their mindset.
“As a gymnastics program, we need to be able to handle any situation that is thrown at us. That’s what great teams do. They’re fired up about that.”
A highlight from last week’s meet was sophomore Leah Smith’s 9.95 on the vault, the first routine in Arkansas history that did not include a deduction.
“Just really proud of Leah, although it’s not that coveted 10 because her start value is a 9.95,” Wieber said. “That’s the first ever … score for any Arkansas gymnast to have zero deductions.”
The Tigers (5-3, 2-3 SEC) are coming off their best season after finishing fifth at the NCAAs last April in their second appearance at the championships. They are also coming off a big high, scoring a season-best 197.45 in a home win over Auburn. Jocelyn Moore scored a 10 on the vault, the first perfect score in the Tigers’ history.
Wieber said senior Norah Flatley, who has been dealing with an illness that has limited her to three events in most meets, has looked strong on the floor and might be an add to that lineup tonight.
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