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Arkansas Gymnastics: And They Flew Through The Air

They flew through the air, with the greatest of ease, our daring young GymBacks on all but a trapeze. They vaulted, they balanced, and swung on the bars, and at the end of the meettumbled into our hearts.

If you have not yet watched the lady GymBacks in Barnhill Arena then you are truly missing a fantastic show! Even if you, like me, can’t attend in person, the SEC Network airs Friday Night Heights each Friday, featuring at least three gymnastic meets. It is quickly becoming must-see-TV in our house.

Last night (January 27) the Razorbacks hosted the LSU Tigers in a SOLD OUT Barnhill Arena. The Barn was striped out in red and white to welcome the Tigers to Fayetteville for their first sell-out in program history, a 7,147-attendance record. And those attendees were not disappointed! In addition to the attendance record, the GymBacks also set a new program record for Barnhill with a total 197.475 points. The scene in Barnhill was electric at the start but by the end was completely standing room only in support of our gymnasts. It was a night of stuck dismount after stuck dismount after stuck dismount. There is a cheer squad there, Sue E. Pig and Big Red makes an appearance, and the Hogs are called.

We started our night on the vault (home team starts there) with a total score of 49.300. That was the only apparatus where LSU topped with a score of 49.500. If you stop and think about a max score of 50 with 5 vaulters, that tells you that no one was missing by much, for either side. Cami Weaver started off with a 9.875 followed two 9.850s by Norah Flatley and Frankie Price, and Lauren Williams nailed down a 9.925.

Moving on to bars, which was frankly a very rough spot early in the season, and the GymBacks posted a new season best 49.350 to LSU’s 49.300, moving us closer to the overall lead. The bars were flat-out owned by Norah Flatley with a 9.925 in the anchor position! She was helped with two 9.875s from Reese Drotar and Maddie Jones, and an 9.850 from Jaime Pratt.

The balance beam is always the hardest for me to watch. A 4-inch-wide board, 4 feet off the ground, and these athletes dance and tumble across it - without tumbling off. But watch you must because these ladies are poetry in motion! Once again, Norah Flatley anchored the team with a 9.900 and she was joined by Cally Swaney posting her own 9.900. The rotation was started with a 9.875 from Kalyxta (Lyx) Gamiao, followed with a 9.850 from Kiara Gianfanga and 9.725 from Kennedy Hambrick. We totaled 49.250 to LSU’s 49.150.

After three rotations, GymBacks were .100 behind LSU. It was at this point that I looked at my husband and said, “we can totally take them on the floor.”

I was not wrong.

Maddie Jones led off the floor exercises and brought home a 9.900. She was followed by not one but two more 9.900s from Bailey Lovett and Frankie Price, a 9.925 for Lauren Williams,and Leah Smith brought down the house with a 9.950! Each and every one of those ladies was loose and having fun, and you could see it! They KNEW they were control at this point. They were so fun to watch. The crowd was dancing along, standing,and cheering. We racked up a 49.575 to LSU’s 49.300.

If you aren’t familiar with the parameters of gymnastics, its kind of a mixed bag. Six athletes are chosen for each apparatus. All six perform their routines and the top 5 are kept for scoring.

And while we like to win the meets, it is even more important for the team as individuals. Their scores are kept throughout the season and accumulated points are considered for them to qualify to compete in the NCAA Gymnastic Championships. For that event, they are on their own for competition. So, it’s a combination team and individual sport, with an SEC Championship and NCAA Championships for the team, and a separate championship opportunity as individuals.

In other words, there is a lot to cheer for!

The team of seventeen is coached by Jordyn Wieber, assisted by Chris Brooks, Kyla Ross, and Jackie Terpak. We boast fourfreshmen, two redshirt freshman, four sophomores, two juniors, two seniors, and three graduates. That is a lot of foundational experience, and a lot to look forward to in the future.

Again, if you haven’t watched a meet, give it a shot! These ladies will bring a smile to your face and get your toes to tapping while they are on the floor. And there’s nothing wrong with that.