The #18 Arkansas Gymnastics Team [2-2, 1-2 SEC} is back in Fayetteville, this time in Bud Walton Arena. On Friday, the Razorbacks will take on SEC foe in the Florida Gators. After a historical performance at their last meet. With a 197.475 – 197.250 victory over LSU, Arkansas will look for another outstanding performance against a talented Florida program that ranks in the top 5 nationally in all events but one. We will examine the series’ history, how each team fares in each event, and the significance of being in front of fans at Bud Walton. First, let’s look at some history between these two programs.
This will mark the 53rd meeting between the Hogs and incoming Gators. This series with Florida is the longest-running series with any opponent for Gymnastics. Since the series started in 2003, Arkansas has only won three meets, with wins coming in 2009 and twice in the 2011 season, and is 3-49 all-time. Two of the three victories have come in Fayetteville, with the final win in 2011 coming from the NCAA Regionals from Denver, Colorado, to end the season. Last season, Arkansas would fall in Gainsville 198.250 – 196.475, and in the SEC Tournament, in Birmingham, 198.200 – 196. 450. Arkansas set a new program high last season after a 49.475 on beam against the Gators.
Events This Season
Coming into Friday’s meeting, these two programs are peaking. Here is a breakdown of the score averages for each event so far this season. On vault, the Razorbacks have a 49.191, while the Gators have a 49.294. Florida is ranked 6th in the nation in this event, while Arkansas is 13th. Trinity Thomas leads the Gators with a 9.938 in this event, while Norah Flatley leads the Hogs with a 9.863. With this being the first event for Arkansas of the night, they will need a solid performance to get the energy from the crowd and confidence for the remainder of the meet.
The event where we saw Arkansas improve drastically against LSU from other performances was the bars. Coming into this meet, the Razorbacks now have a 49.106 average. Leading the Gymbacks in this event is Norah Flatley, with a 9.906. Arkansas comes into this meet ranked 33rd in the nation in this event. Florida comes in as the number one bar team in the nation. The Gators are averaging 49.538 in this event, and the above-mentioned, Thomas and Leanne Wong, lead in the event with 9.956. Arkansas will need to hit its points in this event, and based on its most recent event, it can.
The Razorbacks average a score of 49.106 on the beam. That score currently ranks 16th in the nation on the event. While there have been many strong performances this season, Norah Flatley leads the team with a 9.875 and will look to have another strong performance against the Gators. Florida comes in with an average of 49.431 in this event. The Gators are currently ranked 4th in the nation in this event. Wong leads the Gators with a 9.913. This will be an event where it will take all Razorbacks to be on point with all movement. No wobbles and sticking their landings will be critical.
Arkansas brings the juice when it comes to the floor routine. The energy in their routines, combined with their unbelievable athleticism, makes for an exciting event. Arkansas ranks 7th nationally and averages 49.344 in the event. Freshman Lauren Williams and sophomore Leah Smith have 9.900 in this event this season. Their routines, along with the anchor from Frankie Price, make this the Hogs’ top event as a team in 2023. Arkansas will need these performances and more to defeat the Gators. Florida comes in ranked 4th nationally, averaging 49.438 in the event. The Gators are led by Thomas who has a 9.958 in the event. In what is a top 5-floor national floor competition this will be an exciting one to watch.
Back At Bud Walton
Arkansas Gymnastics competes in a legendary arena in Barnhill Arena. The 7,147-seat arena that saw legendary hoops teams and coaches for ages is now packed with Gymnastics and Volleyball fans during their seasons. Since 2003, the Gymbacks have been in Barnhill and have compiled a 77-59-2 record. In the 21 seasons, they never saw a crowd like last season, against LSU, when they sold it out. Last season the Gymbacks also hosted a meet at Bud Walton Arena. It is known as “The Basketball Palace of the Midwest.” In Fayetteville, when other events are there, it is just known as “The Palace.” This will be the second-ever meet in Bud Walton as the Razorbacks hosted Auburn to start the SEC competition. In that meet, the Razorbacks fell 197.250 – 197.000 to the Tigers before a single meet attendance record of 10,345 people. The Razorbacks also set a single-season average attendance record of 4,966 in 2022. The meet on Friday between these long-time rivals will be another for the record books!
Where? When? How?
The meeting will take place from Bud Walton Arena on the campus of the University of Arkansas. The meeting will be Friday, February 3rd, with team intros to begin at 6:45 pm. The meet is scheduled to begin at 7 pm and will be streamed live on SEC Network Plus.