Arkansas gymnasts top 198 for first time, beat Nebraska at Bud Walton Arena

Arkansas' Lauren Williams competes in the floor exercise Friday, Jan. 26, 2024, during the Razorbacks' meet with Auburn in Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville. (Andy Shupe/NWA Democrat-Gazette)

FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas gymnasts started hot and finished strong on senior night to blast past 198 for the first time in school history and fulfill Coach Jordyn Wieber’s pre-meet hopes.

The No. 12 Razorbacks obliterated their school-record score by almost a half point to down No. 29 Nebraska 198.1 to 197.375 before an announced crowd of 7,342 Friday night at Walton Arena.

Arkansas ended the night with a smash, surpassing the highest-ever score with a school-record 49.725 on the floor exercise, the team’s best event this season.

“This is huge,” Wieber said. “Our goal this whole season has been to continue upgrading. This meet was such a great reflection of all the hard work that we put into doing that. I’m really proud of this team. This is exactly what we needed going into postseason next week.”

Junior Maddie Jones notched an event-winning 9.975 on the floor, and teammates Leah Smith, Lauren Williams and Frankie Price all put up matching 9.95s. Williams, the sophomore from Rogers, put the Razorbacks over the top in front of the home crowd in the fifth position and Price’s big score in the anchor spot erased an earlier 9.9.

Wieber noted earlier this week the Razorbacks had twice eclipsed their school-record score — a 197.525 against Alabama and a 197.65 against Missouri two weeks ago — but both of those performances came on the road. The fifth-year Arkansas coach wanted the Razorbacks to end the regular season with a big total at home.

The Razorbacks opened hot on the vault with a program-record 49.55 to take a lead of 0.3 after the opening rotation.

Cami Weaver opened the event with a 9.85 and no other Razorback scored lower than that. Freshman Hailey Klein scored a season-best 9.975 to win the event, while the trio of Price, Smith and Williams posted 9.9s and freshman Dakota Essenpries chipped in with a 9.875.

Smith participated on the bars for the first time this season and led off the rotation with a 9.925, a sign of things to come for the Razorbacks.

Reese Drotar posted an event-winning 9.975 and senior Jensen Scalzo went 9.9 to pace the rotation.

Arkansas boosted its lead to 99.175 to 98.625 at the halfway point.

The Cornhuskers gained a little ground after the third rotation by scoring a 49.35 on the floor exercise while the Razorbacks were posting a 49.3 on the balance beam.