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GymHawks gut out second

BY ROBBIE LEHMAN | JANUARY 25, 2010 7:30 AM

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After two meets and as many second-place finishes, Larissa Libby still didn’t know much about the identity of the Iowa women’s gymnastics squad. Nonetheless, she was still demanding perfection.

The sixth-year coach emphasizes finishing strong in all events in all meets, no matter how they may begin.

Iowa overcome a sleepy start to score 192.175 points and finish second in the Jan. 23 four-team meet in State College, Pa., falling behind the Nittany Lions’ team score of 195.325. Yale and Cornell finished third and fourth in the meet.

Between youth, injuries, and a lack of mental toughness, the Hawkeyes have yet to put together the complete meet Libby believes matches the team’s talent level.

In three meets, Iowa has failed to hit on all 24 routines. The Hawkeyes only hit on one of their first six routines to begin the meet at Penn State.

“If we could get everyone to hit all of her events every night, it would be very helpful,” Libby said in a release. “It’s disappointing when you consider what we are truly capable of accomplishing, but we are getting there. It’ll be a consistent climb up, and they’ll get there. But I think it’s a slower climb than they’re used to.”

Libby knew the team would be affected by its youthfulness, but she didn’t expect injuries to be just as strong of a component, which have left her shuffling the lineup each week and not knowing who is going to be healthy enough to compete.

Only two GymHawks competed in the all-around because of injuries. Junior Rebecca Simbhudas placed third at 38.600, followed by a fifth-place score of 37.150 from sophomore Jessa Hansen.
Simbhudas said Iowa found several positives to build on from the meet and took to heart what Libby has emphasized.

“I think that we learned that we can actually forget about what we did in the first event and keep on moving,” Simbhudas said. “We finished really strong, so that felt really good. I think that’s a lesson learned.”

Iowa seems to have established its strengths on the competition floor. Five GymHawks placed in the top nine on the uneven bars at Penn State. On the floor exercise, five also landed among the top 10.

“I thought the whole bar team was very, very good tonight,” Libby said after the meet. “Their attention to detail was very good. They made sure that all the things we’ve talked about in practice were done, and all of the girls just had clean routines in general.”

Hansen finished tied for sixth on the bars, with a 9.750. She agreed the event will be a key one for Iowa this season.

“I think as a team, we’re deepest on bars,” she said. “We’re not where we want to be yet. As of now, it’s our most consistent event.”

Libby was also pleased with the performance of two walk-ons in the balance beam. Sophomore Melissa Miller placed fifth with a 9.650, and junior Kelly Galau tied for sixth with a 9.600.

“If you want to talk about bleeding Black and Gold … these girls come in here, put it all on the line, and give everything they have every night,” Libby said about Miller and Galau. “Not enough can be said about what they’re doing to help lead our team.”


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