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Trio set for comeback

BY ROBBIE LEHMAN | JANUARY 29, 2010 7:30 AM

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Good news hit the Iowa women’s gymnastics team this week.

Three previously injured all-arounders seem to be ready to make a return to competition on Saturday, when the Hawkeyes will host No. 25 Illinois at 7 p.m. in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

But the injuries have left head coach Larissa Libby annoyed.

“I don’t think we’ll ever be at full strength this season,” she said. “It’s just not in the cards for us, and it’s frustrating.”

Sophomore Annie Szatkowski (foot), as well as juniors Arielle Sucich (neck/back) and Houry Gebeshian (ankle) will attempt to overcome nagging injuries in an effort to help their teammates on the competition floor this weekend.

Although the three are normally all-arounders, none sees herself participating in all four events for the Hawkeyes.

In particular, Iowa has struggled on vault in the past three meets. The returning trio of GymHawks all start with 10.0 vault scores; when they can’t participate in a meet, Libby is forced to replace them with less-than-10.0 vaulters.

Already down by tenths of a point at the beginning of competition, Libby said the absence of Szatkowski, Sucich, and Gebeshian “absolutely kills us.”

Szatkowski said dealing with injuries is a struggle for the team — especially for the three.

“It’s a little bit scary, but it’s good that we’re pretty deep,” Szatkowski said. “But I feel like by the end of the season when it matters, we’ll have everybody in tiptop shape and we’ll all be back.”

Patience is the key, she said, although it’s not easy.

Libby, in her sixth season as Iowa’s head coach with a 45-51-1 overall record, said all three injured GymHawks will be a meet-day decision, and which events they’ll participate in will also be late rulings.

Sucich said none of her teammates are letting the injury situation weaken their spirits — it’s just a chance for others to contribute.

“Everyone’s aware of what’s going on — who’s hurt, who’s not,” she said. “At the same time, people are stepping up and getting the job done. It’s all about improving each week as you go, and that’s just what I’m trying to do.”

Injuries or not, the Hawkeyes are focused and ready to put on a show at home.

“Really, we’re trying to focus on the things that we have and not the things we don’t have,” Libby said. “The kids that we have right now are doing a fantastic job. … so we’re just going to try to stay on a positive note and keep the focus on the right area.”


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