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GymHawks host Ohio State in Pink meet

BY ROBBIE LEHMAN | FEBRUARY 05, 2010 7:30 AM

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The Iowa women’s gymnastics team is focusing on the now.

After a disappointing home loss to Illinois on Jan. 30, the GymHawks will try to regroup and win their first meet of the season.

Iowa hosts Ohio State (1-3, 0-1) at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday at 7 p.m. for the GymHawks’ annual “Think Pink” meet. The team will sport pink leotards in support of breast-cancer awareness.

“It’s important to us,” Iowa head coach Larissa Libby said. “We coach upwards of 18 young women every year. In coaching women, I feel like it’s our job to constantly raise that awareness that it could be anybody. It’s not a selective disease. That importance is there for us this weekend.”

The importance of a strong all-around execution is present as well.

The Hawkeyes rank No. 35 in the nation, just in front of the No. 37 Buckeyes. The Hawkeyes average 192.637 team points per meet, also narrowly edging Ohio State’s 192.331 average. The teams sit at sixth and seventh place, respectively, in the Big Ten standings as well.

Coming off last weekend’s home loss, the GymHawks have been tweaking routines in hopes of finding a spark. Libby lashed out at her young squad on Tuesday during practice for not working hard enough.

“We’re trying to change things up in the gym a little bit,” the fifth-year coach said. “We had a long discussion about the [Illinois loss] and the disappointment of it. I don’t believe that there are a lot of teams that are doing far more difficulty than we are. It’s just we’re not as mentally tough as everybody else.”

Libby described herself as being “brutally honest” with her team and said her gymnasts are “too nice” — something that freshman Emma Stevenson disputed.

“Well, I don’t know about that,” she said. “I think we all really want it. We haven’t gotten to the point that we can show that yet. We practice really well. Of course, everyone makes mistakes. People have been shining at different points this season, but it hasn’t all been collective.”

Sophomore Jessa Hansen, who ranks 16th in the Big Ten with an all-around average of 38.344, said the team is on the right track to getting stronger mentally.

“You have to have that attitude like, ‘I’m better than everyone here,’ ” she said. “You can’t be like, ‘Oh, hey, I’m here to have fun.’ In the end, you want to be the best one there. To be the best, you have to act as if you’re the best. We have to step it up, and before we put on the equipment, act as though we really are the best.”

Stevenson acknowledged her teammates’ goal of eventually hitting their stride in time for the heart of the Big Ten section of the regular-season schedule. She also understands time is winding down.

“The goal was to peak later in the season, and it’s starting to get later,” she said. “So I hope that in the next week or two to see everything that we’ve worked so hard for this year come together and have us do what we are capable of.

“Of course we’re nice, but we’re not going to let people walk all over us.”


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