Hansen focused on GymHawk success


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A glance at the Iowa women’s gymnastics team roster reveals a preponderance of underclassmen.

And one of them, Jessa Hansen, is prepared to step into a leadership role.

The Clive, Iowa, native began the 2010 season by winning the all-around competition in the Hawkeyes’ home-opener against Michigan State and Illinois-Chicago on Jan. 15. Career bests in both the vault (9.775) and balance beam (9.850) earned her a career high score of 39.025 in the all-around.

But while others might shy away from the thought of being a go-to performer, Hansen said, dealing with an increased role is nothing she can’t handle.

“There are a lot of expectations and a lot of pressure, but it’s kind of nice to be counted on,” she said. “And I think it will help me rise to the occasion and be someone to depend on.”

For a team with one senior — Jenny Donar — sixth-year head coach Larissa Libby will depend on the sophomore gymnast to guide the Hawkeyes throughout the year, especially during competitive conference meets.

Hansen said she is ready, but is the Big Ten ready for her?

The Waukee High graduate burst into the collegiate gymnastics scene as a freshman last season. This season, she ranks fourth in the Big Ten individually in the all-around, averaging 38.950 points. Her average score also ranks 27th nationally.

But while others may aspire for personal success and lofty goals, Hansen, a modest underclassman, would never tell that anyone.

“I really just want to hit every event, every meet, help improve our team score every meet,” Hansen said. “I guess the focus is really on the team, just do whatever I can to help us rise in the rankings and establish ourselves in the Big Ten.”

To Libby, Hansen has all the physical tools of a great gymnast, but her most admirable quality is her team-first attitude.

“The best thing about her is that there isn’t a single arrogant bone in her body,” Libby said. “She truly is shocked anytime she is a winner in something. She competes for the pure joy and trying to make a statement for her team.

“She could care less for an individual title. It absolutely means nothing to her.”

Donar agreed that Hansen seems poised to shine for Iowa.

“I feel Jessa’s definitely ready,” she said. “She loves competing, and she definitely brings it every time she comes into a meet. She’s been strong and consistent so far, so it’s going to be a promising year for her if she keeps it together.”

Hansen credits her early success to off-season training and maturity as a sophomore, which she didn’t have a year ago.

The newfound confidence is something Libby would like to see more frequently as the season progresses.

“She is learning to be a tougher competitor,” the coach said. “She’s one of those ‘nice young ladies’ who needs to get cockier out on the competition floor. I think she can go really, really far. She’s capable of a lot more. She just doesn’t know it yet.”

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