The first official Friday Night Heights of the 2020 season is here, and we’re kicking off our coverage of it with a matchup that will provide a first look at two of the most intriguing teams in the SEC: Arkansas at Florida. I don’t know about you all, but I’m excited—and also seem to have a strong craving for fajitas.
Florida had the most disappointing (some might say soul crushing) finish of 2019 when it fell short of qualifying to nationals in the upset heard ‘round the gymternet—landing it in 10th place, its lowest finish in 17 years. The Gators are undoubtedly fired up and ready to remind everyone that they are not only a team that expects to make nationals, but one that expects to contend for the title as well. Florida has remained relatively mysterious about predicted lineups, with our best preview coming just a few weeks ago as videos of the intrasquad were posted. The task at hand for the Gators will be replacing the routines of a key all arounder (Alicia Boren) with a signing class of just one gymnast (Payton Richards)—meaning the team will have to look to returning gymnasts to step into those lineups. That being said, we can absolutely expect to see Richards in the mix, likely on vault, with other events as possibilities as well down the road.
The big story for Arkansas is of course the debut of first year head coach Jordyn Wieber, who takes over for Mark Cook after 17 seasons at the helm for the Razorbacks. This will be the first opportunity to see what, if any, changes she has made to potential line ups or overall competition readiness. Ultimately Arkansas lost four key routines across all events, but it should be able to fill those gaps with returning gymnasts getting into new lineups and utilizing freshman. The key to improvement will be consistency; while individually capable of putting up great routines, the Razorbacks struggled to put together a solid lineup multiple times last season—on bars and beam especially.
In an interview released on Thursday morning, Wieber said that a few familiar faces would not be competing tonight: senior Hailey Garner will be sitting out due to a concussion sustained at the Meet the Gymbacks preview a few weeks ago, senior Sarah Shaffer will be limited to vault and sophomore Amanda Elswick is still coming back from injury. The good news is this means we may get to see more from the newcomers.
All in all it should be a fun way to kick off Friday Night Heights. Let’s get this party sizzling (sorry, the fajita metaphors will stop soon. I think).
Looks like Florida freshman Payton Richards will be competing three events tonight! Alyssa Baumann returns on vault. Arkansas has almost all of its freshmen in the lineup tonight as well.
Arkansas lineups posted:
Rotation 1: Florida Vault; Arkansas Bars
Alexander (UF): Huge FTY, flared out at the end but took a step back. 9.775
Yamzon (ARK): Weiler kip, tkachev, nice. Bail to handstand, solid. Great last handstand. FTDL, stuck. Great start for Arkansas. 9.700, I think.
Reed (UF): Y1.5, crooked on the table and a hop forward. 9.875
Carter (ARK): Blind full to jaeger. Bail to handstand, slightly short it looked like. Great last hand stand. Solid dismount, little step. 9.575
They lowered Yamzon’s core to 9.675. Interesting.
Baumann (UF): Y1.5, came up short and sat it down. I saw her do one well in warm ups, that’s too bad. 9.175
Gillings (ARK): Blind change to piked jaeger, hands slipped and she fell. Bail to handstand was a little short. Slight step back on dismount. 8.950
Schoenherr (UF): Y1.5, hop forward but good vault. Slight knee bend in the air but I don’t know how much the judges can see that. 9.800
Hambrick (ARK): Blind change to piked jaeger, solid. ever so slightly short on the last handstand. FTDB dismount, stuck. Lovely. 9.825
Thomas (UF): Y1.5 so big she went out of the screen a bit. Good form in the air, step forward. 9.825
Lovett (ARK): Tkachev, little close to the bar. Bail handstand solid. Giant full double tuck dismount with a little step. 9.825
Richards (UF): Y1.5, hop forward. She went out of my screen as well but I think that might be the camera angle’s fault. Form looked nice in the air. 9.850
Laird (ARK): Toe on tkachev, beautiful. Short handstand to follow. Bail to handstand was nice. DLO dismount, step back. 9.725
Hundley (UF – EXH): FTY. Some knees in the air, slight hop back.
Gianfagna (ARK – EHC): Toe-on tkachev, solid. Some leg separation. Bail to handstand. FTDB dismount, solid.
AFTER ONE: FLORIDA 49.125; ARKANSAS 48.625
The Gators lead after the first rotation, and both teams showed some first-meet adrenaline and nerves, with one fall for each team. Luckily neither team will need to count the falls, and while both teams scored lower than they would like to, it is January and all of those deductions are things that can and will be smoothed out over time.
Freshman Payton Richards has the top score on vault, not bad for her first routine as a Gator.
Rotation 2: Florida Bars; Arkansas Vault
Yamzon (ARK): FTY, step back, some legs in the air. 9.675
Richards (UF): Beautiful handstand to start. Shaposh, bail handstand. DLO dismount, some leg separation but stuck. 9.800
Gianfagna (ARK): FTY Looked like a low block, some piked hips in the air. 9.725
Gowey (UF): Gorgeous handstand and toe on tkachev. Pak salto, solid. Beautiful handstands again. Stuck DLO dismount. Beautiful. Her toe point! 9.850
Hickey (ARK): FTY, huge distance. Step back, though. 9.675
Hundley (UF): Gorgeous routine from Hundley, stream paused and I missed the first half but that dismount was gorgeous and stuck cold. 9.875
Rogers (ARK): FTY. Good height, big step to the side.
Schoenherr (UF): Huge jaeger . Bail handstand was solid. Holy handstands batman. Blind change, double front half out stuck cold. 9.850
Shaffer (ARK): Gorgeous Yurchenko half. Slight hop but cleanest vault so far. 9.750
Thomas (UF): pak salto, some leg sep but beautiful otherwise. I think she held that bail to handstand for a solid minute there. DLO dismount stuck. 9.925
Hambrick (ARK): FTY, stuck landing but chest was very low. 9.675
Skaggs (UF): Gorgeous handstand. Tkachev straight to pak salto, good. Great handstand again. DLO with slight hop back.
Clapper (UF – EXH): blind change piked jaeger. short handstand, good bail. FTDT dismount, slight hop. Her twist on her dismount is almost delayed it looks like.
Alright these camera angles are going to make me dizzy, here.
AFTER TWO: FLORIDA 98.425; ARKANSAS 97.150
The Gators had a great bar rotation – I think almost everyone stuck or mostly stuck their dismount, which we know would make Tim Daggett happy (Gymnastics 101 people!)
Arkansas had some form and landing issues on vault, but overall it was a solid rotation without any major mistakes. Like I mentioned before, the mistakes are things that can and will be cleaned up as the season progresses.
Rotation 3: Florida Beam; Arkansas Floor
Hundley (UF): front aerial to sissone, solid. BHS LOSO. beat jump to switch side, solid. Full turn was good. RO 1.5, stuck and she is very happy about that. Great start for Florida. 9.825
Yamzon (ARK): Ah, Lizzo music. First pass double tuck, mostly controlled step back. Double pike with controlled landing for the second pass. Leap series were well controlled. Enjoying her dance. Last pass front layout front full. All in all a great lead off routine. 9.700
Richards (UF): Full turn was solid. BHS LOSO LOSO, well done. Smiling about that. Pretty leap series. Side aerial to full dismount. Some legs on the aerial and a little hop on the landing. 9.825
Gianfagna (ARK): Great landing on her double pike for the first pass. Second pass 1.5 to front layout. Controlled leaps. Double tuck to finish, chest was a little low but controlled landing. 9.725
Clapper (UF): BHS LOSO LOSO, solid. Controlled full turn. Switch leap to split jump, looked a liiiiiitle short of 180. Side aerial to a full dismount, hop back. 9.800
Hickey (ARK): Double pike, a little off to the side and almost went out of bounds but saved it. Second pass 1.5 (some legs) to front layout. Solid double back for her third pass. 9.750
Baumann (UF): Switch leap to split jump, beautiful. BHS LOSO, rock solid. I love how intense she always is on beam. Switch half, gorgeous. Side aerial, sharp. RO 1.5 stuck landing. Great routine.
Hambrick (ARK): Big double back to start, wow. Second pass front handspring to layout to stag jump (I think, the name is escaping me). Leap series shows off her flexibility but a little bouncy. Roundoff double pike to finish, also big. Nice routine. 9.825
Gowey (UF): Switch leap split jump, nice. BHS LOSO LOSO, little off but good fight and saved it. Front aerial to sissone, solid. Gainer full dismount, stuck. 9.950
Lovett (ARK): DLO to start, damn! Early in the season to see those. Front layout front full, hopped out of the landing with a little too much power. Huge double back to finish, almost stuck it. What a great freshman debut! 9.825
Thomas (UF): Gorgeous leap series, she has beautiful extension. Everything she does is graceful. One armed BHS LOSO, very fun. Front aerial to beat jump . side aerial to 1.5 dismount, stuck. 9.975 (one judge gave it a 10!)
Carter (ARK): Big double back to start, nice. Second pass front 1.5 to 1.5 to layout. Big double pike to finish. All in all beautiful and clean routine. 9.875
Skaggs (UF – EXH): switch leap split jump. BHS LOSO, controlled. Switch side, good. Beautiful presentation overall. Side aerial full dismount, very nice.
AFTER THREE: FLORIDA 147.950, ARKANSAS 146.150
Well, Jordyn has proved she is a floor coach extraordinaire with that rotation from Arkansas. It will be fun to watch them continue to improve throughout the season. Freshman Bailey Lovett came in hot with a double layout, which is something I feel like we don’t usually see until a little later in the season. I’d check your fantasy gym conferences to see if she might be available if I were you.
That was also a gorgeous beam rotation for Florida, lead by Trinity Thomas with a 9.975. One judge did give her a 10 – so I think #Trinity10Watch is officially off to a good start.
Rotation 4: Florida Floor; Arkansas Beam
I am real excited to see Florida’s floor routines. The previews made them look very fun.
Yamzon (ARK): cat leap switch half to start, very controlled. BHS LOSO LOSO, solid. Nice little choreography out of the full turn. Front toss to beat jump. Side gainer full dismount. Good start for Arkansas. 9.775
Johnson-Scharpf (UF): Ok, I love her sass on floor. Double pike, controlled step back. Second pass 1.5 to front layout, nice. Okay, that’s a fun leap series. Loving the dance on floor, as are her teammates. Double back to finish. Great routine. Might be the best I can remember seeing her do. 9.775
Gianfagna (ARK): BHS LOSO, some bent knees but solid. front toss, looks like she was maybe going to connect into something else. missed the back half of that routine because my dog decided to step on the remote temporarily turning off my stream. 9.800
Gowey (UF): Front layout, front rudi to start. Gowey’s music is always so dramatic, I love it. Her extension is so pretty. Leap series was beautiful. Huge double back to finish. 9.800
Lovett (ARK): Good switch leap split jump. Front aerial to LOSO, that’s unique. Switch side and she comes off. Gainer pike dismount, small step. Jordyn had very intense stare-down at the end of the beam that reminded me of Miss Val. 9.150
Hundley (UF): I am obsessed with this classic rock mix. So perfect for her. RO whip to double back, nice. YES TO THIS DANCE. Fun. I think my age is showing. RO BHS double pike. Great leap series. 1.5 to front layout to finish. Her energy on floor is contagious. 9.850
Gillings (ARK): BHS LOSO LOSO, nice. Slight bobble on the front aerial. Switch leap to split leap, nice. Side aerial to a full dismount, slight hop.
Reed (UF): Big DLO to start. Little short on her leap. Front layout to rudi, nice. Love the drum-line dance break. Big double pike to finish. Lots of big tumbling. All in all nice routine. 9.925
Hambrick (ARK): BHS LOSO, takes a step out of it but saves it. Foot comes up on her leap series. Just seems to have some jitters. Straddle 3/4, that’s unique. Gainer full off the side for a dismount, slight step. 9.625
Thomas (UF): I love how unique her music is. HOLY HUGE double layout to start. Wow. Second pass front 1.5 to front layout, beautiful. Weird balance step out of her leap series. Very high double pike to finish. Great routine minus that weird little balance check. 9.975
Carter (ARK): BHS LOSO, balance check but saves it. Sheep jump – not one you see often. Side aerial full dismount, step forward. 9.500
Baumann (UF): Did I read somewhere that they call her the Ice Queen? Because I dig it. Powerful double back to start, you can tell she is also training a DLO. Second pass was clean as well. Nice leap series. Stuck double pike to finish. I always really enjoyed her on floor. 9.850
Sydney Laird (ARK -EXH): side aerial side aerial. Pretty split on the beam. Little short on the split 3/4. Side somi. Gainer full dismount. Probably one of the best routines to be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised to see her in future lineups.
Halley Taylor (UF – EXH): Full-in for a first pass, nice. 1.5 to front layout to stag jump. Stuck double pike to finish. I believe this was her first college routine?
FINAL: FLORIDA 197.350, ARKANSAS 194.400
Well, that went about as everyone predicted, I think. Some big scores for the Gators, on beam especially. Of all the routines that I think could have gone for the 10, I’d say Trinity on beam was the one. That has to happen at some point this year. Florida as a whole looked really solid and ready for the season.
It was a decent first meet for the Razorbacks as well, despite some mistakes and little issues they will no doubt be working on fixing in the weeks to come. Starting their season on the road against Florida isn’t the easiest opening meet. We also can’t forget that Arkansas was missing some key routines tonight – Hailey Garner and Amanda Elswick will certainly be called upon as soon as they are healthy.
Article by Kalley Leer
Like what you see? Consider donating to support our efforts throughout the year!