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GymHawks face Kentucky

BY EVELYN LAU | MARCH 6, 2009 7:22 AM

Hitting 24-for-24. That has been the top goal for the Iowa women’s gymnastics team all season.

As the GymHawks head into their final home meet, problems on the balance beam have forced head coach Larissa Libby to place more emphasis on her beam lineup. However, she doesn’t want to make too many adjustments this late in the season.

“We try not to change anything, just try to keep everything the same,” she said. “At this point in the season, a drastic change in practice would be more detrimental than anything else. We try to keep the pace the same, the focus the same, but we’re trying to get the beam team a little bit more pressure in hopes we can settle them down in competition a little bit.”

The 23rd-ranked GymHawks (9-4, 2-1) will try to keep up their winning ways as they host No. 24 Kentucky in Carver-Hawkeye Arena tonight.

Iowa will be led by sophomore Houry Gebeshian, who won her fourth all-around title in the GymHawks’ last meet, against Maryland Feb. 28, with a score of 39.300. Senior Jenifer Simbhudas followed closely behind in second with a 39.275.



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For Gebeshian, the individual awards don’t mean as much as people might think.

“I really don’t think it matters how many wins I have or what my scores are,” she said. “I’m just as confident as before. I just go out and do my thing.”

Iowa ranks second on both the vault and floor exercise in the North Central Region. During the last meet, the GymHawks put up a team season-high on the vault (49.225) with five of six gymnasts scoring personal season highs. They also put up great effort in the floor exercise, scoring a team total of 48.975, led by freshman Jessa Hansen’s 9.875.

However, the other two events, the uneven bars and balance beam, have given the GymHawks a bit of trouble. Iowa had two falls on the beam but still managed to score a 48.375; on the uneven bars, the Hawks scored a 48.300, also with a fall.

In practice, Libby stresses the importance of hitting on every event or at least trying to be as close as possible. As six competitors compete on each of the four events, ideally, she would like to see 24 top-notch scores.

“They’ve got to figure out how to hit 24-for-24, and even if they can’t hit 24-for-24, they’ve got to figure out how to hit 20-for-20,” Libby said. “We’re not going to be able to stay in the race for a Big Ten championship or regionals if we can’t hit 20-for-20. The other thing is, it’s one thing to have four falls, but if they all come in the same event, then you’ve to count them.

“If you spread them around and have one on every event, then they don’t count, and it’s not that big of a deal, but counting a point in falls is pretty rough, and we’ve got to figure out how not to do that.”

While last weekend’s meet was designated Senior Night, this final home meet will have some extra emotion for the four graduating seniors. For Simbhudas, her four years as a GymHawks have been good, and she hopes to finish her career on a high note.

“I don’t want to have any regrets,” she said. “I just want to train to my fullest potential, and I just want to make every moment of it — like the last time I’m ever really going to compete in front of people — [count] because it’s the only adrenaline rush I think I’m ever going to have in my life because competing just brings that out in you.”


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