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Fixing GymHawks’ home

BY ROBBIE LEHMAN | FEBRUARY 23, 2010 7:30 AM

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When a gymnastics meet runs smoothly, it’s not just the teams and coaches who are happy.

It may not be the most glamorous of jobs, but the University of Iowa facilities department is responsible for the behind-the-scenes work necessary for putting on a successful event, including all setup, teardown, and carting equipment.

A typical gymnastics dual meet lasts approximately two hours, but the facilities crew works much longer than that. It takes roughly four hours — and a lot of teamwork — to convert Carver-Hawkeye arena into a meet-ready gymnasium.

“It helps that we’re kind of fortunate where we have a lot of students who’ve been around,” full-time facilities intern Brandon Yezek said. “They kind of know what’s going on. We don’t have to tell them too much. They take control, grab mats, and know where things go. Everyone kind of helps each other and kind of picks an event and puts the equipment where it needs to be.”

As one of the supervisors, Yezek, 30, also coordinates the facilities for other sporting events hosted in the arena, including basketball and wrestling. He is also preparing himself for the upcoming baseball and softball seasons.

The night before a meet, 12 to 15 facilities workers along with two or three supervisors load all the gymnastics materials into two 24-foot rental trucks and park them overnight in the Kinnick Stadium parking lot. The crew then goes through the four-hour setup, including pushing in bleachers.

Second-year Iowa assistant coach Caleb Phillips checks the crew’s work, occasionally tweaking something. He said the facilities team does a “top-notch” job.

“As far as worrying about if the equipment is getting put together right or not, it’s pretty seamless, actually,” Phillips said. “They make it pretty stress-free. It’s one fewer thing for us to worry about. Nothing but a positive review from me.”

But the work isn’t done when the meet is. The whole procedure must be reversed, and all of the equipment back to its original home, safe and sound at the Field House.

There have been nights, Yezek said, when the crew didn’t finish until 2 a.m.

Equipment from the four events, such as beams, vaults, and uneven bars, along with numerous mats are the routine pieces of the facilities puzzle. If not heavy, nearly every piece of equipment is also awkward to carry.

What takes the most time is the floor exercise mat, which is composed of layers of plastic and foam topped with carpet.

Specifically for the floor, facilities hires 10 to 15 Army ROTC members for extra help. Led by cadet battalion commander Pace Jaworski, the group acts as a fundraiser to give back to the university community.

“It’s really a good opportunity for our cadets to get out there and do some good things for our program,” Jaworski, a senior marketing major, said. “Hopefully, toward the end of the semester we can reward them with some other incentives. It’s been a really good experience. All of our cadets have been more than happy to help.”

With the help of the CrewHawks and the cadets, the GymHawks have a quality environment and atmosphere to perform in during meets.

“We finalize what they do, but they do 98 percent of it,” Phillips said. “It’s pretty simple for us to just make sure that loose ends are tied together. It really makes competition day for us coaches pretty light. What they do, they do very well.”


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