Gym'backs tie Tide with record score

Arkansas' Kalyxta Gamiao performs her floor routine on Friday, Jan. 12, 2024, during a gymnastics meet at Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville.

The No. 4 University of Arkansas gymnastics team had a meet the Razorbacks will never forget in their road opener Friday night, posting a school-record 197.525 in a tie against No. 3 Alabama at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Alabama junior Lilly Hudson, who had fallen off the balance beam on the previous routine, came through in the anchor spot with a 9.95 on the floor exercise to salvage the tie and cap an amazingly tight competition in which the teams were never separated by more than 0.225.

The Razorbacks trailed by .025 entering the final rotation but slid into the lead when junior Kalyxta Gamiao nailed her dismount for a 9.925 to place second on the event. Sierra Linton scored 9.9 while Maddie Jones and Lauren Williams had 9.875s to help the Razorbacks maintain their slender lead.

Linton’s stuck dismount in the fifth spot on beam sealed the school-record score for the Razorbacks (1-0-1, 1-0-1 SEC), who opened with a 197.15 in a win over No. 16 Georgia last week.

“What I told the team was to pick off where [they] left off from last week and they did just that, starting on bars,” fifth-year Arkansas Coach Jordyn Wieber said. “There’s still more we can do: More details, more handstands and more sticks.

“Obviously we’ve got more in the tank, but to go out and do a very normal confident performance and score a program record, the team is really starting to believe this is normal for them and they can reach new heights this year.”

Two Alabama gymnasts stepped on the out of bounds line during the floor exercise in the final rotation, but Mati Waligora and Jamison Sears still managed to score 9.7 and 9.875 in the event, respectively. Sears’ score in the fifth spot kept the Tide (4-0-1, 1-0-1 SEC) close, and after Priscilla Park’s non-scoring fall on the beam for Arkansas, Hudson ignited the crowd of 11,041 with her near-flawless finale.

The Razorbacks opened with back-to-back 197s for the first time in school history and posted their 14th score of 197 or better under Wieber, including their seventh in the past 11 meets.

The previous school record was less than a year old. The Razorbacks scored a 197.475 in a win over No. 8 LSU last Jan. 27.

Arkansas nearly pulled off its second road win at Alabama following an upset in 2016. Alabama, which has dominated the series, is now 48-5-2 against Arkansas.

Williams, a Rogers product, had a big meet, sharing the vault title at 9.925 with Alabama’s Luisa Blanco and Arkansas teammate Leah Smith, who also paced the Razorbacks with a 9.925 in the floor exercise.

The Razorbacks opened with a 49.3 on the uneven parallel bars, paced by Park’s 9.925, which placed second on the event behind Alabama’s Makarri Doggette (9.95). The Crimson Tide scored 49.35 on the vault to hold a sliver of a lead after the opening rotation.

Alabama kept up its reputation in the second rotation, as the nation’s No. 1-ranked bars team posted a scalding 49.6 with no scores lower than a 9.9.

Doggette led the way, while Shania Adams and Waligora each scored 9.925, while Chloe LaCoursiere and Cam Machado provided 9.9s.

Arkansas competed in the second rotation with a strong vault total of 49.425.

ESPN commentator Samantha Peszek questioned where the judges found a deduction on Smith’s Yurachenko full, which included a stuck dismount. Williams had a slight forward hop after her landing.

The Crimson Tide had a slip to open the balance beam, with Waligora scoring a 9.7 before Hudson came off the apparatus and scored 9.125.

However, the scoring improved for Alabama the rest of the event despite several balance checks and wobbles, with Ella Burgess firing off an event-winning 9.95 and Shania Adams posting a 9.9.

Meanwhile, in the floor exercise, Smith led the way for the nation’s top-ranked team in the event with a 9.925, while Maddie Jones scored 9.9.