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Tougher judging ahead

BY ROBBIE LEHMAN | MARCH 24, 2010 7:30 AM

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The regular season was a grind, but the Iowa women’s gymnastics team made it through without too many scars or scratches.

It adjusted to injuries and adapted with a young lineup caused by medical misfortunes.

But with the postseason beginning on Saturday with the Big Ten championships in Columbus, Ohio, the Hawkeyes must adjust to something else: a new judging system.

During previous regular-season meets, two judges scored Iowa’s routines for each event. Now, there will be four.

After a routine, each will present her or his score. However, the highest and lowest scores are dropped, with the final being an average of the remaining scores.

Iowa head coach Larissa Libby said she favors the four-judge system as opposed to two.

“The bias is controlled a little better — if there is a bias,” she said. “I think [the judges] tend to keep each other in check a little bit better. Everyone tries to hold each other accountable a little bit more in postseason.”

The Hawkeyes, ranked No. 30, have secured a spot in the NCAA regional meet, falling on the right side of the bubble. The top 36 teams qualify regardless of geographical affiliation.

Well aware of the upcoming format changes, several GymHawks, such as junior beam specialist Andrea Hurlburt, noted that the judging gets tougher in the postseason.

While some gymnasts were concerned about the change more than others, junior all-arounder Rebecca Simbhudas said it hadn’t even crossed her mind.

“As the season goes on, it gets tougher,” she said. “I don’t really think about it too much. We’ve just got to do what we’ve always been doing. Go out there, do your routines that you’ve been doing, and not really think about the judges. Do it for yourself.”

Libby, in her sixth year as head coach at Iowa, also shot down the notion that the change may affect her gymnasts. Although, the topic was clearly on the team’s collective mind during practice.

“For us, postseason has been way better,” Libby said. “We don’t tend to get the benefit of the doubt in the regular season. I don’t know why that is, but we tend to get scored a little bit lower. We’re always better when we’re away.

Iowa has actually tallied two of its three highest scores of season on the road. The Hawkeyes hit a 195.400 at Louisiana State on March 12 and a 195.175 at Iowa State on March 5. Iowa knocked off the then-No. 17-ranked Cyclones in Ames but lost to the No. 10 Tigers in Baton Rouge. La.

Senior Jenny Donar echoed her coach in that the new system “levels the playing field.” She’s excited to see what kind of run the Hawkeyes can make in the postseason, no matter how many judges will be watching their routines.

“It would be a dream come true for this team to keep its focus without getting overly excited or too nervous,” Donar said. “It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the preseason. Now the score only counts at that meet, and that’s how you’ll place.”


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