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GymHawks handle adversity

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

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A snowstorm caused the Iowa gymnastics team to arrive in Columbus, Ohio, for the Big Ten championships at 2:30 a.m. on March 27.

Despite the complication, the No. 30-ranked Hawkeyes finished third — the program’s highest place since the 2004 season — at the conference meet and totaled their highest team score of the season, 195.575.

Iowa has dealt with numerous instances of adversity throughout the season, and the snowstorm only served as the latest obstacle that the team needed to overcome.

The Hawkeyes will face another on April 10. On Monday, the GymHawks found out they are destined for Columbia, Mo. — one of the toughest NCAA regional draws.

Sophomore Annie Szatkowski said the team’s performance three days ago was a tribute to a uniform effort.

“We really stayed together even when things went wrong,” she said. “We just forgot about them and moved on, and we obviously ended up doing very well for us.”

Sixth-year head coach Larissa Libby has pleaded all year for her gymnasts to perform to their physical and mental potential. And being in the same arena as six other Big Ten teams helped Iowa satisfy its coach.

“They turned it on at the right time,” Libby said. “They had a blast. I’m 100 percent convinced that it was their passion and energy that had them compete well.”

Sophomore Jessa Hansen was one of three Hawkeyes to earn all-conference honors before the meet, along with juniors Rebecca Simbhudas and Houry Gebeshian.

Each member of the trio placed among the top 13 in the all-around results. Gebeshian collected an individual Big Ten championship, taking the balance-beam title with a career-high score of 9.950.
Hansen is convinced her teammates deserve credit for their performance in Columbus, Ohio.

“If you look at the math, we do bring in half of the team score,” said Hansen, who was also chosen for Iowa’s Big Ten Sportsmanship honor. “We do make a big impact, and we all realize that. We are leaders, and when we put it together, it also helps the team be successful.”

Things weren’t smooth the whole meet, however. Hansen suffered a bloody nose before the floor exercise. Iowa had already counted a fall in the event and couldn’t make a substitution.

After a judges held competition for two minutes, Hansen took the floor with cotton in her nose and delivered what Libby described as a “gutsy” performance, impressing her teammates as well.

“That just shows how much preparation we’ve put into the whole year,” Szatkowski said. “Coach has been emphasizing mental toughness, and I think we’ve all just gotten it toward the end of the season. It all came together in this meet.”


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