Women’s gymnastics team set for regional

BY EVELYN LAU | APRIL 03, 2009 7:35 AM

The Iowa women’s gymnastics team received an early sign of good news when head coach Larissa Libby was recently named the North Central Regional Coach of the Year.

Heading into this weekend’s NCAA North Central Regional meet in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, the 28th-ranked GymHawks will try to make a statement as they battle No. 6 Florida, No. 7 UCLA, No. 18 Minnesota, No. 20 Denver, and No. 23 Iowa State for the top two spots in order to qualify for the NCAA Championships.

“It’s exciting, we’re going to have some really good gymnastics in Iowa City,” senior Jenifer Simbhudas said. “I’m anticipating seeing everybody. It’ll be exciting just to watch on their practice day and see their gymnastics because I don’t think our gymnastics is any different from theirs. They’re just in a different state, so it’s exciting.”

Libby has also stressed to her team the importance of not being intimidated by incoming teams but rather to stay focused on themselves.

“It’s going to be a strong pool, definitely not easy,” Libby said. “It’s definitely going to be a challenge for us. They are some of the strongest teams in the nation. However, I think everybody’s got their little loopholes and weaknesses, some of the teams we’ve seen, so in that respect, it shouldn’t be that challenging but at the same time, the other teams we haven’t seen.

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“I think all in all, if we just stay focused on what we have to do and not who’s coming in here, hopefully, we’ll stay on task.”

After finishing a disappointing seventh at the Big Ten championships, the GymHawks returned to the gym setting their sights and focus on the regional meet. Iowa’s inability to hit consistency on the balance beam caused the GymHawks to falter in their Big Ten title hunt, and Libby focused strongly on the event, knowing that Iowa will start on the event during the first rotation.

“It is a good rotation for us, it gets one of the most difficult events for us out of the way,” Libby said. “If it happens to go out way, I think we take off from there. We’ve already proven, if we mess up, we are capable of coming back and being resilient and showing some pretty good routines. I’m just hopeful that’s not going to be the case.”

Looking to lead the way for Iowa are Simbhudas and sophomores Houry Gebeshian and Rebecca Simbhudas (Jenifer Simbhudas’ younger sister), solid all-around competitors since the beginning of the season.

For Jenifer Simbhudas, last year’s 16th all-around finish and uncharacteristic slip from the uneven bars is a thing of the past. Instead she is focused on the now, and the possibility that this could be the final meet of her gymnastics career.

“I try not to think about it,” she said. “There are a lot of good competitors coming in, some who have already competed with us so it’s definitely in the back of my mind. But I want a mindset of I’m at home and I’m competing.”

Competing in her third regional, Simbhudas hopes to finally qualify for the NCAA championships, whether with the team or individually. However, she has made a change in her mindset as from the past.

“I don’t want to work myself up to [the NCAA championships] because I did that last year so much, that I anticipated so much,” Simbhudas said. “Definitely it’s there, but I don’t want to think so much of it. I just want to think of my gymnastics. What comes first is one skill at a time on each event.”

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