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Iowa women’s gymnasts continue to fight

BY MOLLY IRENE OLMSTEAD | FEBRUARY 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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In between each event, the Iowa women’s gymnastics team members huddle in a meeting before moving on to the next rotation. All 14 gymnasts and three coaches crouch with their arms around each others’ shoulders and look at their teammates as they refocus and regroup.

These team meetings proved to be important on Feb. 25, when Iowa dropped Iowa State, 195.45-195.2, and on Sunday, when the Hawkeyes finished second of four in the Masters Classic, besting Kentucky and Bowling Green with a final team score of 195.5.

Against Iowa State in the Field House, the GymHawks saw three athletes fall and had to count one fall toward the team score. Gymnasts fell in two back-to-back routines; senior Houry Gebeshian fell twice during her beam routine and sophomore Kaitlyn Urano fell in her opening routine on floor exercise.

However, the Hawkeyes were able to recover during floor exercise and clinch the meet after the remaining athletes — Emma Stevenson, Annie Szatkowski, Gebeshian, Rebecca Simbhudas, and Jessa Hansen — all scored 9.8s or higher, including a career-best from Hansen with a score of 9.95.

“On floor, we had to stop the bleeding, and everyone really stepped it up,” Hansen said. “But most importantly, they stepped up when it mattered, so that’s why we won.”

Going into the final rotation against Iowa State, the GymHawks trailed by 0.55 points, but after refocusing, were able to make up the points and clinch against the Cyclones.

“At the end of the day, this team fights, and that’s what we proved tonight,” head coach Larissa Libby said. “You never give up, and we tell them that all the time. Attack, attack, attack, attack until the very end when you’re in the locker room — then you know it’s over. It’s not over until you walk away, and I think that message was loud and clear today.”

Against Nebraska, Kentucky, and Bowling Green at the Masters Classic in Lincoln, Neb., the GymHawks had to recover from falls once again; Urano fell during the first pass of her floor routine during the first routine of the first event.

After starting with a fall, not another athlete fell during the event, and the rest of the GymHawks scored 9.8s or higher on floor.

“It’s part of the sport,” said Stevenson, who competed directly after Urano fell. “People fall. Sometimes it happens the first routine of the first event, and sometimes it happens in the last routine of the last event. But we rebound pretty well. It wasn’t that big of a deal for me because I usually just think that I want to hit, and I focus on that.”

The GymHawks are coming off a stretch of two weeks with less practice than usual, because on Feb. 13 and 15 Iowa competed in two meets, traveled to Iowa State on Feb. 18, and then had two meets again this past weekend.

To compensate for the fatigue, the GymHawks will take today off from training heavily, Libby said, and rest the all-arounders but continue to train hard throughout the week.

“It’s been a long month for us,” Libby said. “The last two weeks have been really, really tiring and stressful, and it’s taken its toll. It took everything they had just to get in and get their routines done today, but we did a really nice job coming out from the locker room ready to attack the competition.”


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