Friday night, I made the tactical error of leaving my home only thirty minutes before the No. 3-ranked Arkansas Gymbacks’ showdown against No. 25-ranked LSU Tigers. This was an error because apparently Hog Nation read my column from last week in which I stated that our Gymbacks were worth of a packed house at BarnHell because y’all packed that arena last night. Clever Hog Nation! And what a fantastic time to honor the wishes of an amateur blogger/gymnastics lover! If there’s one thing Razorback fans love, it’s honoring former Razorbacks, and last night welcomed home the Gymbacks’ inaugural 2003 team. What a thrill it must have been for those ladies to see the powerhouse of which they laid the foundation. Of course, there’s a second thing we all love, too—BEATING LSU.
Arkansas’ Gymbacks marched out against a much more poised, focused and talented opponent in the Bayou Bengals than they faced last week against the Kentucky Wildcats. (Perhaps LSU was still nursing wounded pride from the loss to Arkansas in the Cancun Classic.) The Gymbacks opened on vault while the Tigers’ squad took to the uneven bars. A series of complicated and clean vaults from Amy Borsellino, Kelci Lewis, Jordan Salsburg, and Scarlett Williams culminated with soaring, near-perfect passes from senior Jamie Pisani and sophomore Katherine Grable, earning a 9.9 and a 9.95, respectively, for Arkansas. Meanwhile, despite early struggles on the bars, pint-sized LSU freshmen Randi Lau and Lloimincia Hall’s powerful bar routines showed the Gymbacks that the Tigers had come to play, as evidenced by the several Louisianans who chanted “L-S-U!”
That spirit was soon subdued. Rotation from vault to bars proved the superior abilities of the Gymbacks’ squad. Grable and senior Mariah Howdershell performed gorgeous, difficult routines that earned the team a 9.9 and 9.925, while Pisani revealed herself as Olympic-gold winning Nastia Lukin, securing her first 9.95 of the night and rounding out a virtually error-free Gymbacks squad. Meanwhile, LSU senior Ashley Lee and freshmen Rheagan Courville each earned a 9.95 for impressive vaults that showcased a Tiger team hell-bent on hanging with Arkansas. Beam exercises nearly obliged LSU, as the Gymbacks earned their lowest scores of the evening on the event that I call “the Devil’s Playground.” Fortunately, Katherine Grable’s graceful performance garnered a 9.925, bailing out the relatively weak scores of her teammates and outweighing some of the mediocre-to-cringe-worthy performances of LSU on the floor. However, credit where credit is due to the Tigers: freshmen Lloimincia Hall’s spunky tumbling and sophomore Casey Duvall’s “When Doves Cry” routine were cool.
The evening’s final rotation sealed the deal for another Gymback victory. Jamie Pisani’s dramatic floor routine earned her second 9.95, while the night’s resident sass-meister Katherine Grable combined Olympics and Broadway to bring her own 9.95 to the table. Grable earned nothing less than a 9.9 the entire evening; Hog Nation, thank your lucky stars this young woman is but a sophomore. High-flying, high-scoring floor exercises outshined the Tigers who struggled valiantly yet to no avail, on the beam. Arkansas’ Gymbacks won with a team score of 197.225 to the LSU Tigers’ 196.325. Not quite the drumming that Kentucky suffered last week, but that’s fine. In the case of LSU, I like a hard-fought, close-won Razorback victory that will stick in the Bengals’ craw. Neaux-neaux, Tigers!
…And for the efforts of their hard-fought, close-won victory, today the Gymbacks have risen to No. 1 in the Country!! GO HOGS!!