Jenifer Simbhudas nearly perfect at gymnastics meet

BY EVELYN LAU | MARCH 9, 2009 7:27 AM

Jenifer Simbhudas has always striven for perfection.

Competing in her final regular-season home meet for the Iowa women’s gymnastics team on March 6, the senior sure got close.

Simbhudas kicked off the night with a 9.900 in the vault and ended as the last performer in the floor exercise, scoring a 9.925. She won both events as well as the balance beam (9.875) en route to winning the all-around and setting a new career-high of 39.525, tied for eighth best all-time for Iowa.

“I anticipated today, so I knew that it was coming,” she said. “It was one of those things that you build up to that you don’t want to put pressure on, but it’s still like set yourself back because you know how to do it. So it was kind of like a medium for me.”

The night saw the 23rd-ranked GymHawks knock off No. 24 Kentucky, 196.525-194.825. Iowa (10-4, 2-1) put together a great team effort scoring a 9.600 or higher on 23 of 24 performances.
Unlike the last meet, the seniors who pulled through in their final home meet, with Simbhudas winning three events and Brandi Loffer scoring a 9.900 on uneven bars to take the individual title.

After the meet, head coach Larissa Libby was ecstatic about her team’s overall performance.
“I knew that they had it in them as long as they did the job. Six-for-six, five-for-six, six-for-six, six-for-six, and there’s the score,” Libby said. “I never thought it was an overly difficult task for them, but I think in their minds a 196.00 is just, breaking that score down, it’s just too much to think about. So going back and focusing on smaller goals to get to the bigger one is what made the difference in the end.”

Iowa built an early lead by putting up six solid vaults, ranging from 9.700 by sophomore Houry Gebeshian to Simbhudas’ 9.900. Kentucky, competing on the uneven bars, had three falls, which put it more than a point behind, 49.100-48.000 after the first rotation.

Rotating onto the uneven bars, the GymHawks hit five-for-six with five gymnasts scoring more than 9.800 or higher. Freshman Jessa Hansen had the lone fall for Iowa, scoring a 9.300, while Loffer won the event as she nailed her routine and earned a 9.900. As a team, Iowa scored a 49.225, good enough to keep it in front of Kentucky.

“I wasn’t expecting [that score] at all,” Loffer said. “I knew it was a decent set, but I did not expect that at all. I mean, I was really excited. It just gave me back the feeling that I had last year of knowing that I can go out there and do it.”

Switching to the balance beam, Libby had spent time during practice working on the event after seeing repeated falls in the last few weeks. It paid off — the GymHawks had six scores over 9.650, led by Simbhudas (9.875), helping keep a 147.350-146.200 lead after the third rotation.

Heading into their final event of the night, after five solid performances securing the team victory, Simbhudas used the moment to put together one final hurrah. She scored a 9.925 with her routine, despite protests of a “10.0” from the crowd.

Simbhudas managed to keep her emotions in control for most of the meet, but she admitted that knowing this was her final performance in front of a home crowd gave her some extra motivation.
“Knowing that this was the last home meet really, so I mean, that’s what gave me a little push to give it my all,” she said. “I mean, every meet was like that, but especially this one.”

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