GymHawks place fifth in regional


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The admirable run is over for the Iowa women’s gymnastics team.

The 30th-ranked Hawkeyes ended their season with a fifth-place finish at the NCAA regional meet in Columbia, Mo., on April 10. Making its 10th regional appearance in program history and fourth in the last six seasons, Iowa compiled a team score of 194.400.

Head coach Larissa Libby’s squad finished sixth in last season’s regional meet, which was held in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. And despite the result, the Hawkeyes were glad to have achieved their goal of improving upon their 2009 place.

“The girls have worked all year long and never gave up,” Libby said. “They had some really great gymnastics out there, and it’s nice to see the fight. I’m ecstatic that they’re walking away having bettered themselves from our regional performance last year. That’s exactly what we asked them to do.”

No. 15 Missouri and No. 8 Oregon State finished first and second to earn the two team berths to the NCAA championships, to be held April 22 in Gainesville, Fla.

Georgia, Minnesota, and North Carolina placed third, fourth, and sixth.

Junior Rebecca Simbhudas highlighted the Hawkeyes’ efforts. The Markham, Ontario, Canada, native tallied a 39.250 to earn fourth place in the all-around, earning her a trip to the national meet as an individual competitor. She said she had mixed emotions about her success, feeling sad for her teammate.

Houry Gebeshian fell just short of qualifying for the national meet in the all-around after tying for fifth with a 39.100. A three-round tiebreaker proved to be of no avail, and the junior was ousted from contention.

Missouri’s Sarah Shire won the all-around title with a 39.625, followed by Oregon State’s Mandi Rodriguez and Danielle Guider, also of Missouri. All three had previously qualified for the NCAA meet, allowing the next two place winners to advance.

Iowa’s third all-arounder, sophomore Jessa Hansen, scored a 38.250 and tied for 16th.

Beginning the meet on the balance beam, the GymHawks put up a 48.400 with Simbhudas leading the way, hitting a 9.725.

On the floor exercise, the Hawkeyes posted a 48.800. Hansen notched the team’s best score with a 9.850 to tie for third place.

Iowa scored a 48.925 on vault — the highest score for the team in the event all season. Simbhudas recorded a 9.875, and sophomore Annie Szatkowski hit a 9.800.

In its last event, Iowa tallied a 48.775 on the uneven bars. Simbhudas led with a 9.850.

“As a team overall, we did pretty well,” she said. “We did so much better than last year, and that’s what matters. Being able to move up in the rankings is a really good thing for us.”

After struggling during the early months and battling injuries most of the year, expectations for Iowa in the postseason were minimal. The Hawkeyes will most likely move up in the final season rankings — something Hansen said she is proud of despite Iowa not earning a NCAA berth.

“It’s kind of bittersweet,” she said. “We’re really happy we’re moving up in the rankings. I’m also just really happy for Becky. It’s great for our program, and hopefully, next year, it will be our whole team.”

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