Arkansas gymnasts back home after great start

Arkansas' Lauren Williams competes on the beam during a gymnastics meet against Georgia on Friday, Jan. 12, 2024, in Fayetteville. (Charlie Kaijo/NWA Democrat-Gazette)

FAYETTEVILLE — Can the Arkansas Razorbacks gymnastics team run with the momentum they have created through two meets?

That is the question facing fifth-year Coach Jordyn Wieber and the No. 4 Razorbacks following a program-record score of 197.525 at Alabama last week. It is the team’s first unbeaten start through two weeks since 2014.

Wieber and the Razorbacks (1-0-1, 1-0-1 SEC) will begin getting feedback on that front tonight at 7 against No. 13 Auburn at Barnhill Arena.

“The team is simultaneously just super excited and — we’re obviously really proud of of their performances so far — they’re still in it, they’re still hungry,” Wieber said. “They’re still working really hard in the gym. That was one thing I was really looking forward to this week was making sure that we’re not getting complacent.”

With school back in session, Wieber said she is hoping for a big attendance tonight. The Razorbacks will be on the road for the next four meets over three weekends.

“We’re expecting a pretty big crowd,” Wieber said. “This is the first home meet where students are back on campus. So I think there’s just a lot of excitement around the program right now and obviously the most season-ticket holders we’ve ever had for one season. So I just anticipate a lot of energy in that arena.”

Arkansas has gone undefeated the first three weekends only three times since the program began competition in 2003, starting with a 5-0 run in 2004 and a 3-0 beginning in 2005. The Razorbacks have not turned that feat since the 2012 squad opened 6-0 with wins over four teams at the Cancun Classic, followed by dual-meet triumphs over Kentucky and LSU at Barnhill.

The Razorbacks pulled a deft trick last week, rallying in the final rotation against a top-three team on the road to overcome a deficit of .025 with the Razorbacks on the balance beam and Alabama on the floor exercise. The first 5 Razorbacks on the balance beam hit with 9.825s or better, paced by Kalyxta Gamiao’s leadoff 9.925 and Sierra Linton’s 9.9 to push Arkansas into a slight lead before Alabama closed strong.

Junior Leah Smith and sophomore Lauren Williams both posted 9.925 on both the vault and floor exercise, and the Razorbacks produced a string of 9.85s or better to bring the fight to Alabama.

“I think going on the road … and tying Alabama, is a really big deal,” Wieber said. “It is hard to beat Alabama at home. Any team that’s away in the SEC, I think automatically has that little disadvantage.

“But the fact that we could put up a really strong fight and be sort of the talk of the town in that meet I think that was really exciting for us. … For us, tying Alabama very much felt like a win because it was that program-record score and I was just really proud of the team just being normal, being consistent and having a great meet.”


While Arkansas is nine spots ahead of Auburn in the rankings and have better average scores in every event, the margins are super thin. Coach Jeff Graba’s Tigers, led by all-around athletes Cassie Stevens, Sophia Groth and Olivia Hollingsworth, are rebuilding after the losses of 2020 Olympics gold medalist Suni Lee and Derrian Gobourne.

Auburn (1-4, 0-2 SEC) has scored 196.6 or better in all three of its competitions, but back-to-back scores of 197.025 were not enough in dual meets against Kentucky and Florida, and a 196.6 topped only preseason No. 5 UCLA at the Mean Girls Super 16 in Las Vegas.

Auburn has a 6-meet winning streak against Arkansas, with 2 dual meets, 3 SECs and 1 neutral-site win over the Razorbacks since Arkansas posted a 197.425-197.125 win over the Tigers on March 5, 2021.

The Razorbacks have posted back-to-back 197s to open a season for the first time and have 14 of the program’s 24 197s in the last 4 seasons under Wieber. That score represented a school record at the time, since broken twice: with a 197.475 to beat LSU last Jan. 27 and last week’s 197.525.

No. 13 Auburn at No. 4 Arkansas Gymnastics

WHEN Friday at 7 p.m.

WHERE Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville

RECORDS Auburn 1-4, 0-2; Arkansas 1-0-1, 1-0-1 SEC

SERIES Auburn leads 25-19-1

TV SEC Network+

COACHES Jeff Graba (14th year at Auburn); Jordyn Wieber (5th year at Arkansas)

NOTEWORTHY The all-time series was tied at 19-19-1 before Auburn won the past 6 meets since March 5, 2021. … The Razorbacks have had 6 different gymnasts rank No. 1 on an event or the all-around in their 22 years of competition: Casey Jo Magee on the balance beam for 3 weeks in 2010; Katharine Grable for 3 weeks in the all-around in 2012 and 2014; Mariah Howdeshell for 2 weeks on the uneven bars in 2012; Jaime Pisani for 7 weeks on the floor exercise and for 4 weeks in the all-around in 2012; Frankie Price and Lauren Williams for 1 week the floor exercise in 2024.

EVENT RANKINGS

Vault: 5. Arkansas 49.325, 19. Auburn 49.142

Uneven bars: 9. Arkansas 49.313, 14. Auburn 49.233

Balance beam: 6. Arkansas 49.213, 14. Auburn 49.133

Floor exercise 3. Arkansas 49.488, 12. Auburn 49.375

INDIVIDUAL RANKINGS (Top 125)

Vault: 5. Lauren Williams (Ark) 9.912, 13. Cami Weaver (Ark) 9.887, 47. Leah Smith (Ark) 9.85, 66 (tie). Olivia Hollingsworth (Aub), Cassie Stevens (Aub) 9.842, 75. Makenzie Sedlacek (Ark) 9.838, 87. Sophia Groth (Aub) 9.825, 121. Priscilla Park (Ark) 9.813

Uneven bars: 44 (tie). Reese Drotar (Ark), Park (Ark), 56. Stevens (Aub) 9.867, 68 (tie). Jaime Pratt (Ark), Jensen Scalzo (Ark) 9.862; 72. Groth (Aub) 9.858, 77 (tie). Maddie Jones (Ark), Gabby McLaughlin (Aub) 9.85

Balance beam: 15 (tie). Kalyxta Gamiao (Ark), McLaughlin (Aub) 9.9, 22. Jones (Ark) 9.887, 52. Hollingsworth (Aub) 9.85, 82 (tie). Stevens (Aub), Paige Zancan (Aub) 9.825, 111. Williams (Ark) 9.813, 125. Weaver (Ark) 9.8

Floor exercise: 22 (tie) Jones (Ark), Smith (Ark), Williams (Ark) 9.912, 34. Price (Ark) 9.9, 48. Stevens (Aub) 9.892, 63. Hollingsworth (Aub) 9.875, 85 (tie). Groth (Aub), McLaughlin (Aub) 9.867, 113 (tie). Aria Brusch (Aub), Gamiao (Ark), Hailey Klein (Ark) 9.85

All-Around: 23. Stevens (Aub) 39.425, 32. Groth (Aub) 39.35, 43. Hollingsworth (Aub) 39.267, 93. Park (Ark) 38.525

BIG BOUNCE

Arkansas gymnastics, coming off a school-record score of 197.525 in a tie at Alabama, is scoring 197s at a higher rate under fifth-year Coach Jordyn Wieber. The Razorbacks have posted their top five scores and 7 of their top 10 scores in Wieber’s 4-plus seasons:

Score; Meet; Date

197.525;at Alabama;Jan. 19, 2024*

197.475;vs. LSU;Jan. 27, 2023*

197.425;at Auburn;March 5, 2021*

197.4;vs. Florida;Feb. 3, 2023*

197.35;vs. Missouri;Feb. 19, 2021*

197.3;Arkansas Tri-Meet;March 16, 2018

197.275;vs. Arizona;March 2, 2018

197.275;NCAA Norman Regional;March 30, 2023*

197.25;NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional;April 2, 2021*

197.225;vs. LSU;Jan. 20, 2012

197.225;vs. Kentucky;Feb. 26, 2016

* — Under Coach Jordyn Wieber