Arkansas gymnastics snaps long streak to Auburn

Arkansas' Jaime Pratt (center) celebrates with teammates Friday, Jan. 26, 2024, after competing in the bars during the Razorbacks' meet with Auburn in Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Andy Shupe)

FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas gymnastics team couldn’t keep its scalding school-record pace of last week, but the Razorbacks are still flying anyway.

The No. 4 Razorbacks powered to another 197-plus point total and took down No. 13 Auburn by a score of 197.225 to 196.675 before a record-tying sellout crowd of 7,147 at Barnhill Arena on Friday. 

Arkansas capped the meet with a 49.475 on the floor exercise, which has been the Razorbacks’ top event. Sophomore Lauren Williams aced all three of her tumbling passes to post an event-winning 9.95 and put the meet out of reach. Classmate Frankie Price followed with a 9.9 in the anchor position to put icing on the victory.

The Razorbacks (2-0-1, 2-0-1 SEC) snapped a 6-meet losing streak to Auburn and remained unbeaten through the first 3 weeks of a season for the first time since 2012. Arkansas, following a school-record 197.525 total at Alabama last week, opened with 197 or better in its first 3 meets for the first time and posted its 15th score of 197-plus under fifth-year Coach Jordyn Wieber.

“I thought it was another really solid performance from this team and obviously a great crowd and an incredible atmosphere in here,” Wieber said. “Another SEC win, which is always a good thing. There are clear places we can improve, especially on beam tonight and some landings on vault.”

The Tigers (1-5, 0-3 SEC) had a gymnast fall in each event, but they were never forced to count a fall and stayed within striking distance through three rotations.

“We put pressure on ourselves, that’s for sure,” Auburn Coach Jeff Graba said. “But I really like the fact we really rose to the occasion and had a bunch of good performances. I mean, heck, we go to the final event and we’re still sort of in the meet.”

Graba was complimentary of the sellout crowd and the work Wieber has put in to elevate the Razorbacks.

“It probably wasn’t their best night obviously, but she’s got it rolling here,” Graba said. “I love it. The crowd, the fan base, the environment, the girls are doing fine. The team’s looking really good.”

The Razorbacks didn’t flash the same landing precision they had shown early in the season on vault, but they still built a lead of 0.35 through the first rotation as the Tigers struggled on the uneven bars with a 48.875.

Price led the rotation for Arkansas with a 9.875, while Cami Weaver and Makenzie Sedlacek posted 9.85s.

Emma Grace Boyd, who lead off on uneven bars for Auburn, fell during a transition and the Tigers were forced to count a 9.525. The event had its highlights however, as Gabby McLaughlin had a 9.9 and Olivia Hollingsworth a 9.85.

The Razorbacks stuck every dismount on the uneven bars and added to their lead by scoring a season-high 49.4 after the second rotation. Cally Swaney, Reese Drotar and Maddie Jones all scored 9.9s to tie McLaughlin for the event title and push the Arkansas lead to 0.475.

The Tigers had a fall and had to count a significant deduction on the vault en route to a 49.275 with Julianne Huff and Cassie Stevens taking the event with 9.9s.

Auburn gained ground in the third rotation on the floor exercise, but only after four athletes in a row scored 9.85 or better following a fall by Huff due to an under-rotated landing in the second position. The Tigers posted a 49.325 on the event to gain 0.2 on Arkansas, which had a few wobbles on the balance beam on the way to a 49.125.

The Razorbacks’ lead was 0.275 heading into the final rotation

The Auburn duo of Stevens (39.475) and Hollingsworth (39.35) took the top two positions in the all-around. The Razorbacks did not put up an all-around competitor for the second time in three meets.