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GymHawks have momentum

BY ROBBIE LEHMAN | MARCH 12, 2010 7:30 AM

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Along with its longest road trip of the season comes arguably the biggest test for the Iowa women’s gymnastics team.

There is sure to be a postseason type of an atmosphere in the Maravich Center when the No. 32-ranked Hawkeyes face No. 10 Louisiana State at 7 p.m. today in Baton Rouge.

Coming off consecutive meets in which the team tallied its two highest scores of the season, Iowa head coach Larissa Libby said she feels the GymHawks are ready for her alma matter.

“I feel better going into this competition because I feel like they feel better about themselves, just a little bit more confident,” she said. “We know exactly what we’re capable of and where our potential lies.”

The fifth-year Iowa head coach was more than pleased with her team after the Hawkeyes knocked off two top-25 teams in No. 17 Iowa State in Ames and No. 21 Southern Utah in Iowa City in back-to-back competitions.

It was the first time this season Iowa had competed in two meets on the same weekend, which concerned Libby initially. But the GymHawks exceeded expectations, culminating in the team hitting all 24 of its routines against the Southern Utah on Sunday.

Considering Iowa went a month without a dual-meet victory before it bounced the Cyclones, the team was in much peppier spirits than normal for practice this week.

“It’s always fun when we do well,” freshman Emma Stevenson said. “It’s great that we did it twice in the same weekend to show that we’re consistent now. Everyone wants to keep it going. Everyone’s kind of pushing a little more now.”

Iowa, averaging 194.225 points per meet, hit a season-high 195.300 against Southern Utah.

However, LSU averages 196.110 as a team with a season-high of 196.925. The Tigers also have the nation’s No. 1-ranked all-arounder in Susan Jackson.

For Libby, the road trip marks a return to her alma mater, where she was a captain from 1992-95 for 33-year veteran coach D.D. Breaux. Although Libby played that down, it’s added to the drama.

“You always want to do well in front of the people who trained you,” Libby said. “I learned everything I know from LSU. I don’t want that to reflect on [the Hawkeyes], so we’ve kind of not been talking about where we’re going, what we’re doing too much, except to let them know what the environment’s like.”

With her firsthand knowledge, Libby described the competitive SEC environment as “hostile” and “cutthroat.” She is anxious to see how her GymHawks handle it.

Iowa’s goal this season was to reach its peak performance later in the season — also a reason the LSU meet was scheduled toward the end of the season. Typically, the two teams meet earlier in the year.

Sophomore Melissa Miller said some gymnasts were beginning to worry when the Hawkeyes struggled during the first half of the season.

“I don’t think many people trusted it and were getting kind of worried,” Miller said about Iowa’s plan to peak later. “But I think it’s really shown, because we’ve had our two highest scores and going 24-for-24, how well it is working.”


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