State of the Hogs: Gymnastics

Amanda Wellick is one of the nation's best at the floor exercise and its' the event that excites the Arkansas sophomore. She'll tumble to some powerful music Friday night when the Razorbacks play host to Alabama at Barnhill Arena.

Amanda Wellick is good at everything, but she looks forward to the floor exercise the most. And the fantastic Arkansas sophomore gymnast thinks she has a treat for fans when she hits the mat Friday night in the home opener against Alabama in Barnhill Arena.

Meet time is 7:45 p.m. and will be part of the the first night live gynmastics on the new SEC Network. Auburn and Florida start the night at 6 p.m., also on the SEC Network. It's part of a gala night with prizes given away on Fan Appreciation night in Barnhill.

Armed with a big, powerful tumbling routine, Wellick thinks coaches found the perfect music to finish off her night.

“I hope so,” she said. “It’s from the movie Transformer, a powerful song, very intense and loud. I think it fits me. I’m like that as an athlete.”

It shouldn’t be a surprise. Wellick had strong music last year when she wowed fans and judges on the way to SEC Freshman of the Year honors.

“I’ve always had something similar,” she said. “But this is more intense. It’s like from a battle scene in the movie.”

There are multiple Transformer movies and Wellick isn’t even sure of the origin.

“I guess I better go see the movies, right?” she said. “But I know this is what it’s from. The coaches get to pick your music and they gave me two songs. I loved this one. They choreograph our routines and it really goes with mine.

“I think people are going to like it. I played it for my teammates. They said, ‘Wow, that’s going to need some powerful tumbling.’ It is wow.”

UA coach Mark Cook thinks it’s a perfect match.

“She does have some powerful tumbling and she upgraded it this year,” Cook said. “I think she’s gotten stronger and obviously is much more confident this year as a sophomore. She’s got a dynamic floor routine. She’s working on some even more difficult things and we’ll see if we put it all in.”

Wellick is part of a deeper, stronger UA gymnastic team. The Razorbacks want to be back in the NCAA meet after sending only Katherine Grable and Wellick to national last year as individuals. It still wasn’t a bad NCAA meet, with Grable winning floor exercise and tying for first in the vault to bring home to individual trophies.

“I think it motivates Amanda to be there and see Kat win those titles,” Cook said. “It’s not easy to compete at nationals without your team, but they both did well.”

Wellick is another in a long line of great UA gymnasts, following the graduated Grable and other greats like Casey Joe Magee and Jamie Pisani.

“She really is a talent,” Cook said. “All of them are different, but she fits in that group. She’s on the same path and has been very consistent.”

Wellick held the top all-around score among freshmen last year until the NCAA championships.

Wellick got the 2015 season started off on the right note, as she captured her first career all-around event title at No. 1 Oklahoma last week. A year after competing behind former national champion, Katherine Grable, Wellick was able to capture her first career all-around title by posting a 38.800 score against the Sooners. Wellick currently holds the 12th-highest score in the nation in the floor exercise with a 9.875 and the 24th-best score on the vault with a 9.850.

Alabama sophomore and All-American, Katie Bailey, currently holds the seventh-best all-around score (39.375) in the nation, after capturing the all-around event title against No. 18 Arizona. Bailey is ranked inside the top 25 in three events, as she is ranked 15th in the vault (9.875), 18th on the balance beam (9.850) and 23rd on the uneven bars (9.850).

The Razorbacks, with the top schedule in the country, expect to be back in the NCAA championship as a team. A strong sophomore class led by Wellick should make that happen. They were ranked 13th in preseason, something both Cook and Wellick said was a bit lower than expected. Arkansas moved up one spot to No. 12 this week. Alabama is No. 6.

“We thought we’d be top 10,” Cook said. “It was a little low, in my eyes. But we sputtered a little last year so it’s understandable. We think with the routines we have and some added difficulty, we’ll move up as we go along.

“It’s all about the difficulty of the routine. Judging is subjective, but I think they’ll see what we have in our routines. I think the quality of the routines will show.

“I think we’ll start out in the 195 range or maybe 196. I think that will be a good starting point for us.”

Wellick said that No. 12 spot gives the Razorbacks motivation.

“It does,” she said. “We are better than that. Quite honestly, it goes along with being an underdog and that is motivation. We know we are capable of better than that.”

It gives her motivation to continue to upgrade her routines.

“I like what I’ve added in floor and I’ll try to get that all in this year,” she said. “I’ve added more difficulty in my dismount for vault and I’ve got a completely different bar routine. We will play some things by ear to do what works best for the team.”

A top all-around competitor, Wellick does look forward to the floor.

“I love competing on floor,” she said. “I think it’s especially fun at home when you know your team is going last in floor. All eyes are on you. It gives me so much confidence in the home meets to know we are ending on floor.

“That’s one of the reasons I looked forward to college, the atmosphere in the home meets and finishing like that on floor. You know your whole team is behind you and it’s not just you out there as an individual. There is a lot of meaning to it in college.”

The Wheaton, Ill., product made only one visit in the recruiting process, to Fayetteville.

“You here a lot about someone saying that you just get a feeling?” Wellick said. “Well, I came here and I had that feeling. I didn’t take any other visits.

“It was the combination of everything, the school, the area, the gymnastics. It was all perfect.”

And, then there was that perfect spot on campus.

“I was walking on campus, close to the Greek Theatre,” she said. “I could see down Dickson Street. That was cool. I could see the mountains in the distance, just beautiful. I think it was the right time of year, everything was perfect.”

There was another school of interest, but the feeling wasn’t mutual.

“I had a school that I had wanted to see, Oklahoma,” she said. “But they didn’t want me. That’s fine. I’m very happy here.”

Things couldn’t go much better for Wellick. She said it was a “surreal feeling” last year when she was named SEC Freshman of the Year.

“I was told, but I don’t think I quite understood the magnitude,” she said. “It took a bit for it to sink in. When it finally did, I realized it was a great thing.”

What does she enjoy the most about the gymnastics experience?

“I think the strength of our team as far as unity,” she said. “We keep pushing each other and hold each other accountable.”

Getting ready for competition is fun, too.

“We psych each other up,” she said. “It’s the time when we are getting into the glam, putting on the glitter. There is a lot of hype then. When we start doing that, the adrenalin is flowing.”

There are certain tunes playing through her ear buds during that time.

“I’ve got a meet play list,” she said. “It’s usually three songs, kind of a superstition. One of them changes, but there are generally two there every time, Super Star and Today’s Your Day.”

It’s not anything from the Transformer movies. That’s saved for the fans.

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