Georgia up first for Arkansas gymnastics

Arkansas coach Jordyn Wieber watches Friday, Jan. 13, 2022, during the Razorbacks' meet with Alabama in Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — Fifth-year University of Arkansas Coach Jordyn Wieber might be sitting on the deepest gymnastics team in school history.

The No. 15 Razorbacks will begin finding out if that’s a possibility in their season-opener tonight against Georgia (1-0) at 6:45 p.m. at Barnhill Arena.

“This is the most competitive team I’ve ever had here at Arkansas, which is really fun for us coaches,” Wieber said Thursday. “I mean they want to win meets. So we’re really excited to see the way that that translates into competition.”

Arkansas has firepower in every class and the potential for all-around scoring from several gymnasts, including freshman Priscilla Park.

The sophomore class, led by Lauren Williams of Rogers, is loaded.

“Last year and this year have been underclassman-heavy lineups for us and it will continue to be with the talented classes we continue to bring in,” Wieber said. “Our freshmen are looking really good. A lot of this first meet is getting them out there and seeing them perform under this new level of pressure that they have never competed under before.”

Williams, an NCAA championship qualifier on vault last year, stands as one of the leaders for a group which has bumped up its skill level across the board, but particularly on vault.

Junior Maddie Jones, senior Jensen Scalzo and transfer senior Sirena Linton are also vocal, Wieber said.

“I will say Lauren Williams, following last season, making nationals and achieving that incredible feat as a freshman, we’ve really positioned her as a leader,” Wieber said.

“She learned a lot going through that experience and being at the national championship, watching the other teams, and the first thing she said to us when she got back was I want to bring some of what I’ve learned back to this team and help us get to nationals as a team. That’s been great to see her shine.”

The Razorbacks finished 6-16 a year ago with a 2-5 mark in the hotly competitive SEC. One of those wins came against Georgia, which opened at No. 16 in the preseason Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association poll and scored 196.2 in a home win over North Carolina State last week.

Arkansas downed Georgia 197.15 to 196.875 in a meet that was moved from Georgia’s Stegeman Coliseum due to falling concrete to the Gas South Arena in nearby Duluth, Ga. Two weeks later at the SEC Championships, the Razorbacks topped Georgia again 196.825 to 196.6 at the same venue. Though Georgia dominates the series 37-10-1, Arkansas has won eight of the past 13 meetings since 2018.

Wieber said the Razorbacks have a strong number of E-level tumbling passes on the floor exercise, which has been a strong event in her tenure, and they’ve increased their routines with start values of 10.0 on the vault to four or five, depending on the lineup.

Sophomore Reese Drotar, a parallel bars specialist last season, is dealing with a pulled muscle in her leg and will not participate in the meet, Wieber said.