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Men gymnasts improve, but...

BY JORDAN GARRETSON | FEBRUARY 16, 2009 7:50 AM

If there is one phrase to describe Iowa’s performance in its home triangular Feb. 14, “mixed emotions” fits the bill well.

The Hawkeyes’ 341.60 team score was 20 points better than their 321.55 showing two weeks ago at Michigan. But despite the vastly improved team score, which included five individual season highs, Iowa finished behind both No. 6 Minnesota (345.90) and No. 9 Nebraska (343.50) in the Field House North Gym.

The Hawks were able to keep things in perspective and focus on the bigger picture — their improvement from a disappointing 347.90-321.5 loss to the Wolverines on Jan. 30. Iowa’s previous season-high was its 329.55 against Illinois-Chicago on Jan. 24.

“This is a confidence booster for us,” said Geoff Reins, one of Iowa’s two seniors who were honored for Senior Night on Saturday. “Last meet, we were pretty much embarrassed. We improved by 20 points, so I don’t think it matters right now where you’re finishing in meets.”

Reins contributed to two of the season records, scoring 15.40 and 15.95 in the floor exercise and vault. Both numbers earned him first place.

“I don’t think [Senior Night] really had an effect,” Reins said. “There’s something about Senior Night — it’s your last meet in Iowa City — but at the same time, I don’t think you can really get caught up in that.

“It’s a good way to go out. We had a little tough performance on the last two events, but regardless, it’s still by far our best meet.”

Fellow senior Diego Mercado-Austin, whose parents made the trip from Mexico to see his last performance in Iowa City, had an impressive 15.35 in the vault.

“I had mixed feelings,” he said. “Last home meet, that part was kind of sad. My parents and my fiancée were here, so that was huge motivation for me.”

Seniors weren’t the only ones contributing season highs for the Hawkeyes. Sophomore Mike Jiang’s 14.50 was tops in pommel horse, and junior Reid Urbain earned third place on the rings with a season-best 14.80. The 14.20 fifth-place finish in parallel bars by junior captain Jonathan Buese was also a new season mark for Iowa. Buese finished second in the all-around as well, totaling 81.55.
Overall, head coach Tom Dunn was satisfied with the team’s showing.

“It was very encouraging,” he said. “Hopefully, it will be a positive; we can see a little light at the end of the tunnel.”

He was especially pleased with Iowa’s performance in its first four events — floor exercise, pommel horse, rings, and vault. The Hawkeyes tied with Nebraska for first in pommel horse and were within 1.2 points of the best team scores in the other three events.

“We just got to continue on this path,” Dunn said. “We got to get our score up into the 350 range — we’re capable of it — I think we proved that tonight. Hopefully, we can get it done in the next couple of weeks.”

Iowa will return to action Saturday when it travels to Norman, Okla., to compete against the top-ranked Sooners. The dual meet is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.


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