THE VANQUISHED—IT’S NOT US!!!
The Arkansas Gym'Backs faced the #11 ranked Denver Pioneers Friday evening as the ‘Backs battled to their first victory from a disappointing 0-2 start to the regular season. Arkansas fell to Kentucky last week in Lexington, snapping the ‘Backs 17-meet victory streak over the Wildcats. Regrettably, ArkansasExpats current travel budget is limited to "some sandwiches" and does not allow for "appropriate transportation and standard lodging" to allow me to cover away matches. Perhaps Expats should operate a banana stand, or start channeling its inner Soprano or something. I’ll suggest this at Expats Headquarters.
The ‘Backs opened the evening on vault, and began a lead that they controlled all evening. Veterans Amy Borsellino, Bailee Zumwalde, and Kat Freaking Grable (her Christian name, you know) performed strong, powerful vaults that steered Arkansas to a 48.975 to Denver’s uneven bars performance that garnered a 48.875. Freshmen Erin Freier, who struggled in her first home match as a Razorback two weeks ago, especially impressed. Her well-executed vault earned a 9.725.
That shot of confidence sustained the ‘Backs on the uneven bars, an event that Arkansas has traditionally owned but battled through in the meets against Georgia and Kentucky. Freshmen Keara Glover is rocked a solid routine and is quickly proving herself to be an ultimate asset to the team. She was followed by senior Jordan Salzburg, whose bum knee made her a much-missed commodity in the ‘Backs first meet. Beautiful, high-flying bar routines trumped Denver’s admirable performances at vault, culminating in a 97.9 for Arkansas over Denver’s 97.825 at the end of the second rotation.
Arkansas carried on to the beam, the event that readers of my "If Dorothy Parker Liked Sports" column from last season know I fear with every fiber of my gymnastics-loving soul. Yet, the ‘Backs proved once again that we finally have a team that can control the Devil’s Playground. Freshmen Sydnie Dillard and Glover (again) offered Razorback Nation two complicated, formidable routines that the Florida Gators should be anticipating next week with trepidation. Shelby Salmon, after a frightening fall from the bars, also showed her mettle with a terrific, soaring performance. Arkansas on beam easily outshined a Denver squad that executed six floor routines that were undeniably solid, but dance-heavy and emphasized drama over voltage. Razorback fans reveled in the ‘Backs 146.77 over Denver’s 146.425.
Interestingly, the floor gave the Gym'Backs the most grief this evening. Typically stellar Zumwalde suffered a major bobble she could not bring the end of a difficult pass all the way vertical, and landed on her bum. Freshmen Dillard and Heather Elswick kept upright, but struggled significantly to land key elements of their routines. Borsellino, Grable, and senior Kelci Lewis brought in the reserves with solid routines that salvaged the Razorbacks’ lead over an outclassed Denver squad that faced major trouble on the beam in the form of simply staying on.
Despite some problems that only seasoning will fix, the ‘Backs earned their first victory of the season with a 195.475 over the Denver Pioneers’ 195.125. Most impressive, given the disappointment of the first two meets and a clear indicator that a young ‘Backs squad is maturing at a rapid clip under stellar leadership from Kat Grable and Co. We shall watch their careers with great interest, Razorback Council. Let’s prove that to the gals by making Barnhell ring when the folks from Gainesville come to town next week!