No. 13 Arkansas gymnastics looks to bounce back at No. 6 Florida

Arkansas' Lauren Williams speaks with coach Jordyn Wieber before competing on the beam Friday, Jan. 26, 2024, during the Razorbacks' meet with Auburn in Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville. (Andy Shupe/NWA Democrat-Gazette)

FAYETTEVILLE — After facing their biggest bout of adversity on the season last week in Baton Rouge, the Arkansas Razorback gymnasts must now try to rebound at another difficult venue.

The 13th-ranked University of Arkansas (2-1-1, 2-1-1 SEC) will take on No. 6 Florida today at 6:30 p.m. at Exactech Arena in Gainesville, Fla. The meet will be televised on ESPN and SEC Network.

One week ago the Razorbacks were No. 7 and trying to open the season without a loss through four weeks for the first time in program history. But they hit a snag in the opening rotation on the uneven bars. After an uncommon delay to fix the spin lock on the vault table, two of the final three Arkansas gymnasts came off the bars, forcing the Razorbacks to count a fall for the first time this season.

Arkansas bounced back from a season-low 48.175 on the bars to finish with a 49.2 on vault, a 49.375 on the floor exercise and a season-best 49.45 on the balance beam. But the damage was done.

“I feel like besides bars and having a rough start, we had a pretty great meet,” fifth-year Arkansas Coach Jordyn Wieber said. “I mean, I’m just really proud of the way they came back after a rough first event.

“Really the messaging and the vibe for the team has been we needed a good reset. We needed to get back to the consistency and the discipline that we were feeling in the first three meets of the season. Thats what we were building off of, and not to overthink one bad rotation.”

Arkansas will enter the meet ranked seventh nationally on the floor exercise with an average score of 49.456.

The Razorbacks have seven athletes ranked in the top 50 on three events, led by sophomore Lauren Williams at No. 9 (9.925), junior Maddie Jones at No. 21 (9.906) and sophomore Frankie Price at No. 27 (9.9) on the floor exercise.

Additionally, Jones is 26th on the balance beam (9.875), Williams is 33rd on the vault (9.869), junior Kalyxta Gamiao is 42nd on the beam (9.862) and sophomore Cami Weaver is 42nd on the vault (9.856).

Freshman Priscilla Park had her finest showing in the all-around last week, posting a 39.425. Her performance was highlighted by a tie for first at 9.975 on the balance beam in the anchor position after the Razorbacks had a fall.

“Priscilla is so fun to coach,” Wieber said. “She’s such a perfectionist, almost to a fault sometimes. She’s not lacking in the work ethic department whatsoever.

“That finish on beam was just remarkable and I can really see that some of our young ones are starting to figure it out and be able to handle those big pressure moments, especially with Priscilla finishing us out on beam like that.”

Florida, the defending SEC regular season and championship meet winners, are off to a 5-1 start with the lone loss against Alabama. The Gators are led by a pair of top 15 all-around performers in junior Leanne Wong and freshman Anya Pilgrim, as well as senior Victoria Nguyen. Wong ranks seventh in the all-around with an average score of 39.6.

Florida, which is 10-0 all-time at home against Arkansas, has won 27 consecutive meetings in the series since the Razorbacks claimed the NCAA Denver Regional and a victory over the Gators with a score of 196.55 on April 2, 2011.