AHEM. Yes. With grit and sass, the Gymbacks rattled Alabama for the second year in a row. I SQUEED with delight as the ‘Backs reeled in their first program victory over the Tide in Fayetteville last year. This victory, wherein 9th-ranked Arkansas wrung the crimson out of 4th-ranked Alabama IN THEIR OWN GYM like Holly Holm putting Ronda Rousey DOWN.
And this evening started with less of a bang and more of a "Please, no." As the visiting team, the ‘Backs opened on the uneven bars. While improved over last week’s sloppy handstands and mental mistakes, Coach Mark Cook still has work to do that includes polishing the lineup’s fundamentals. His most solid performer is junior Amanda Wellick, who is tasked with a difficult dismount that careened to the floor this evening. While the Gumps celebrated a solid slate of clean, athletic Yurchenkos off the vault table, the ‘Backs trailed by .625 as they headed to that exercise. Yet…I am beginning to believe that landing on her ass flicks a switch inside of Wellick that turns her into a dragon who eats the hearts of her enemies.
At vault, the Gymbacks stormed back to virtually silence nasal-voiced Bubbas screaming, "Roll TAHDE!!" as their pom-poms lay unshaken and limp on their laps. Sophomore Leah MacMoyle (MACMOYLE RULES!) burst off the table to a 9.875 that fellow sophomore Paige Zaziski (THE POOGE) matched, while Wellick brought in her first 9.9 of the night (her FIRST). THE FIERCE, it burned as Bama struggled on the uneven bars. Alabama still led Arkansas, but the ‘Backs garnered a season-high of 49.275 for their efforts AND got into the Gumps’ heads.
The psychological approach proved incredibly useful during the third rotation. Alabama ascended the balance beam while the Gymbacks moved to the floor.
What happened next…oh my Lord. The FALLING. The FLAILING. One really painful and unfortunate spill (seriously, Avery Rickett—heal up!). The Crimson Tide drowned on that exercise as the ‘Backs went on a rampage at floor, racking up THREE (!!!!) 9.9s from senior Stephani Canizaro, junior Samantha Nelson, and MINTY FRESHMAN Syndey McGlone—who ALSO became the first Gymback in program history to complete a double layout in a floor pass.
I cannot say enough wonderful things about these women, or about Leah MacMoyle’s sassy-pants routine that opened this event in her first year as a part of the floor lineup, OR about floor anchor and senior Sydnie Dillard, OR the OTHER bookend who is Wellick. Tonight, the ladies earned a season high score of 49.425 on floor, and that’s without the majesty of injured senior Heather Elswick in the mix. It’s just a damn fine group of gals. What a time to be alive!
So, yeah. There will be a lot of misery eating in Tuscaloosa tonight as everyone heads to Dreamland for Sad BBQ™. Because Arkansas traipsed over to the beam in the fourth rotation and FINISHED the Tide. Nothing Alabama did on floor could make up for their disastrous beam routine as long as the Gymbacks didn't fall off The Death Stick - Arkansas was six nerve-wracking Beam routines from vanquishing Bama.
Hold-steady Dillard set the tone with a 9.85 that Nelson matched, followed by great footwork and connections from senior Erin Freier, and from Zaziski and McGlone. But Wellick and her SECOND 9.9 finished the Tide. At Tuscaloosa. In their own house. Which is a first for the Arkansas gymnastics program.
At the end of the meet, Head Coach Mark Cook beamed at the aggressiveness of the ‘Backs this evening. To be sure, there is work to be done, and Arkansas will face a formidable foe in Auburn next weekend back in Fayetteville. After that meet, this squad heads to Baton Rouge where Ashleigh Gnat and her perfect-10 Yurchenko vault are waiting. But tonight…it’s hard to be humble when you’re an Arkansas Gymbacks fan #GOBACKS! #GETSCHWIFTY