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GymHawks’ attention to details pays off

BY MOLLY IRENE OLMSTEAD | MARCH 07, 2011 7:20 AM

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In its last home meet of the season, the Iowa women’s gymnastics team brought down the Northern Illinois Huskies, 195.950-193.425, on March 5 in the Field House.

Ten career-best scores were recorded from seven different gymnasts, an accomplishment that puts the GymHawks in a good place for their last dual meet and the Big Ten championships, head coach Larissa Libby said.

The meet was dedicated to four GymHawk seniors, who have competed for Iowa for four years. Senior Arielle Sucich earned two of the career-best scores during Senior Night, on vault with a score of 9.8, which also won her the event in a four-way GymHawk tie, and 9.85 on bars.

“It’s just like any other meet for me,” Sucich said. “I wasn’t focusing on it being Senior Night. I just really try to improve every other meet as it goes along. The whole team wants to improve and get personal bests now.”

During every home meet this season, any gymnast who scores 9.8 or above on any event gets to throw an Iowa gymnastics T-shirt into the crowd. The gymnasts bounce up and down below the bleachers and raise their arms, encouraging the fans to make noise and jump for the prize.

Fourteen t-shirts were thrown into the crowd on March 5, with six of them thrown after the bars event.

The GymHawks’ performance on bars stood out, with each Iowa competitor — Tesla Cox, Sucich, Emma Stevenson, Houry Gebeshian, Rebecca Simbhudas, and Jessa Hansen — scoring 9.825 or above. The team earned its season-best bar score with a score of 49.275 points on the apparatus. Iowa is ranked 10th in the NCAA on bars.

The impressive showing on bars was a result of the GymHawks’ continual attention to detail during practice.

In the gym, Libby watches the gymnasts practice their handstands on the bar — when the gymnast’s body pauses at a perpendicular angle to the bar. “That’s not a handstand,” she shouts when the gymnast doesn’t reach the straight perpendicular position. The gymnasts tries again. “That is; good girl,” Libby yells.

Those high standards during practice led to a successful meet in which the GymHawks, although they “showed up tired,” Libby said, were able to earn their second-best team score of the season with 195.95 points.

“I was very happy with how aggressive we were, even about the little things,” Libby said. “We tried to use this meet to go after all those little things that you get too nervous about to go after in the heat of the moment: landings, handstands, and the details.”

Sophomore Kaitlyn Urano, who fell in her floor exercise routine in the past two meets, came back during her floor exercise routine to score a 9.8 and win the event.

“I practiced that last pass a lot, and put in a lot of numbers with it, and made sure I made it in the gym,” Urano said. “I was very determined this week to not mess up again. I had a lot more ambition this week … and because I knew I could do it, it wasn’t hard.”

The GymHawks’ ability to narrow in and focus on the fine points of their routines puts the team in a good position heading into championship time. In the past, Libby said, the team has still been focusing on the “big things” and trying to merely finish routines.

“I really think focusing on every little thing we do, both inside and outside the gym, just focusing on the small details, is what’s helping our team get better and better,” Sucich said.


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