Stick It, the 2006 movie about a juvenile delinquent court-ordered to participate—HORROR—in gymnastics, taught us invaluable lessons. First and foremost, Stick It is a wildly unrealistic look at what happens to American delinquents. Second, Jeff Bridges’ agent must have really wanted to toy with The Dude’s career. Most important, however—Stick It taught us that it isn’t called “gym-NICE-tics!” Gymnastics certainly wasn’t nice for the No. 23-ranked Kentucky Wildcats who faced off against the No. 11 Arkansas Gymbacks in last night’s SEC opener at Barnhill Arena.
Arkansas’ Gymbacks, led by seniors Mariah Howdershell and Jaime Pisani, and co-coached by Rene and Mark Cook, outclassed the Wildcats in every event, all night long. The ‘Backs opened the evening on vault, while the Wildcats started on bars. Pisani’s high-powered vault scored a high of 9.9 while Kentucky’s Whitney Rose earned a 9.7 for a simple, clean bar routine. The teams rotated for the second series, where Arkansas’ sophomore Katherine Grable and senior Howdershell shined on bar routines, each scoring a 9.875. In the third series, the Gymbacks took to the beam, which I watched through squinted eyes since I’m still not over poor Daria Bijak swanning off the beam in 2008 at Beijing. No calamity for Arkansas, though—sophomore Grable’s elegant, complicated routine won a 9.85. Less impressive were the Wildcats at floor exercise, where freshman Shannon Mitchell’s interesting but slow routine earned a Kentucky high of 9.75.
The final series allowed the Gymbacks complete domination. Kentucky’s entire squad struggled through beam routines, half of the team falling off the beam during their exercises. On floor, however, Gymback Pisani’s Olympian-skill earned a 9.95, the night’s highest score, while the able-Grable’s high-drama tumbling scored a 9.9. Also notable were sophomore Bailee Zumwalde’s fantastically fun, 1940s showgirl-inspired choreography and junior Amy Borsellino, who stormed back from a disappointing beam exercise to score a 9.85 with a powerful, clean floor routine. At the evening’s end, Arkansas’ Gymbacks won handily with a team score of 196.65 to Kentucky’s 192.025. For the uninitiated, winning a gym meet by more than four points is quite a kickin’ (think of the Hog football team’s manhandling of Kansas State in Dallas, and you’ll get the idea.) The ‘Backs’ poise, skill, and focus handily trounced a talented but sloppy Kentucky team because it ISN’T called gym-NICE-tics.
Like the gloriously asinine Stick It, last night’s SEC conference opener at Barnhill Arena provided valuable lessons—but both of these are relevant. First, I am not living up to my physical potential. I need to contact college-dancer me to tell thirty-year-old me to stretch more. Second—and more important—Arkansas’ Gymbacks are a ten-year-old program, the kid sister in an athletic program that boasts much older, heralded sports like football, basketball and track. Yet these women have already earned their due in bringing pride to Razorback Nation—and this 2012 team is no different. The Arkansas Gymbacks are worth every bit of their NCAA No. 10 ranking and worth a packed house at BarnHell. I cannot wait for our ‘Backs to show LSWho how it’s done next Friday. WPS. This ain’t gym-nice-tics.