Razorbacks shine on floor, defeat Georgia in gymnastics opener

Arkansas' Lauren Williams performs her floor routine, Friday, Jan. 12, 2024, during a gymnastics meet against Georgia at Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — The Arkansas gymnastics team scored big on the floor exercise to rouse the announced crowd of 4,552 at Barnhill Arena and lead the Razorbacks to their best season-opening score Friday night.

The No. 15 Razorbacks, led by event-winning 9.95s from Lauren Williams and Frankie Price, tied their second-best score in school history with a 49.575 in the floor exercise to cap a 197.15 to 196.35 comeback victory over No. 16 Georgia.

The team score surpassed the program’s previous best of 196.45 in the 2012 season-opener and represented the 13th score of 197 under fifth-year Coach Jordyn Wieber.

“Honestly we’ve just been working our butts off, and we weren’t even lights out on any event,” Wieber said. “The closest we were lights out was floor. But we have lots of places we can improve on the three other events.

“I think for the team it’s a big confidence-booster because they know they can be even better and they are even better in practice every day. It’s a great place to build from.”

Arkansas notched its fifth win in a row over the Bulldogs (1-1, 0-1 SEC) and its seventh in the past eight meetings.

The Razorbacks’ floor exercise score trailed only a 49.6 posted on Jan. 16, 2015 against Alabama. Williams and Price, both sophomores, nailed tumbling passes and landings to lead the way.

“We do that every day in the gym in training and to go out there and be able to do the same thing, it’s nice to go out there and kill it and have fun,” said Williams, a Rogers native.

“Floor is always so much fun. We always bring the dance party everywhere we go, but this year it’s extra special.”

Williams also shared the vault title with sophomore teammate Cami Weaver at 9.9. Arkansas junior Maddie Jones shared the balance beam title with Georgia sophomore JaFree Scott.

Arkansas freshman Priscilla Park had the save of the night, staying on the balance beam after her triple series of a handspring, layout, layout in the anchor position when a fall would have dropped the Razorbacks behind Georgia.

“That was huge,” Wieber said. “When she got off the beam, I told her that was a tough spot to be in and she handled it really well. She stayed up there and fought really hard.”

Georgia built a lead of 0.2 points in the opening rotation — uneven bars for the Bulldogs and vault for Arkansas — with none of its gymnasts scoring lower than 9.8. Scott led the way with an event-winning 9.95, followed by freshman Ady Wahl (9.9) and freshman Lily Smith (9.875).

Meanwhile, Williams and Weaver were scoring 9.9s on the vault, leading the Razorbacks to a 49.225.

The Razorbacks made up the deficit through the first two competitors in rotation two, as uneven bar routines by sophomore Calley Swaney (9.8) and senior Sierra Linton (9.825) outpointed their counterparts by 0.225. When sophomore Jamie Pratt and senior Jensen Scalzo followed with back-to-back 9.9s, Arkansas held a 0.2 lead of its own.

Park and Jones followed with 9.825 and 9.875, respectively, to give the Razorbacks a 49.325 on the event and a lead of 98.55 to 98.15.

Other top three finishers for the Razorbacks were Kalyxta Gamiao’s third on the beam (9.875), Jones’ tie for third on the floor (9.925) and the duo of Pratt and Scalzo’s 9.9s on the bars.