Women GymHawks get groove back


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Facing its first test of two dual meets in the same weekend, the Iowa women’s gymnastics team passed with flying colors.

The 30th-ranked GymHawks were all smiles after they upset No. 21 Southern Utah, 195.300-194.475, in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday afternoon.

This came after the GymHawks asserted revenge on No. 17 Iowa State on March 5 in Ames, winning 195.175-194.150. The Cyclones beat the Hawkeyes in Iowa City last month.

Iowa head coach Larissa Libby has told her team all season to put everything together in the same meet. It did for two meets, making the sixth-year coach beyond thrilled.

“I told them Friday night that there had been a lot of proud moments in my coaching career, but none more than Friday night, and this night as well,” Libby said. “We’re a depleted team, and this team has been thrown hurdle after hurdle after hurdle, and they just don’t give up. That’s a champion to me. Whatever happens the rest of the year, that’s a champion.”

Before knocking off the Cyclones, Iowa had been in a slump, having not won a dual meet since beating Ohio State at home on Feb. 6.

Junior Rebecca Simbhudas had an outstanding weekend, winning the all-around in Ames with a 39.225. She then tied for the all-around against the Thunderbirds, sharing the title with junior teammate Houry Gebeshian at 39.325.

Several Hawkeyes posted high scores and contributed brilliant performances, but the team effort overshadows the individual statistics — and the GymHawks are fine with that. Iowa posted its highest score of the season against Iowa State, then set a new high score against Southern Utah.

More than anything, that is what delighted the Hawkeyes most, said Gebeshian, who had a good feeling going into the weekend.

“We’re super excited,” she said. “I knew going into this one we were going to do great. I think we’re just going to keep going. We got the momentum. We finally figured out how to compete, finally know what it feels like to win. Once you get that first one, it becomes routine.”

Sophomore Jessa Hansen also had a hand in helping Iowa pull off its successful weekend. She hit a career-high of 39.100 in Ames to place third in the all-around. Then she placed fourth on Sunday with a mark of 38.325.

It was no question which GymHawk brought the most energy, though. Jenny Donar, the team’s only senior, approached her last home meet with everything she had. When she spoke about it afterward, she was downright giddy that Iowa had found its groove.

“We’re definitely going in the right direction,” she said. “I’m very proud of this team. I was hoping for a good weekend, because we really needed it to qualify for nationals.”

Currently at No. 30, Iowa seems to be in decent shape to qualify for nationals, which takes the top 36 teams regardless of region. The Hawkeyes will need more total team efforts like they recorded this past weekend.

“We finally put it together,” Donar said. “This team really brought it [on Sunday].”

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