Men's gymnasts improve on floor exercise

BY RYAN MURPHY | MARCH 23, 2011 7:20 AM

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Throughout the season, Iowa head gymnastics coach JD Reive has stressed the importance of the floor exercise. For most of the season, floor has been one of the team's weaker events, and Reive knew success in the event would translate into success for the team.

He was right.

The No. 10 Hawkeyes have used improving floor exercise scores to boost their standing heading into the April 1-2 Big Ten championships. For the first-year Iowa coach, the higher scores are reflective of the work put in on the event in practice.

"You can tell we put a lot of time and energy into fixing that event," Reive said. "Floor has been a lot more consistent for us."

Four of the top five floor exercise scores have come in the second half of the season, including the season-high score of 57.900 against Nebraska on Feb. 19. The Hawkeyes have risen to No. 10 in the nation on the event with a four-meet average of 56.450. Sophomore Matt McGrath said the team's improvement is obvious just by looking at the Hawkeyes' team scores.

"It's definitely something we were missing at the beginning of the season, and it's easy to tell by our team scores that we've gotten better," he said. "When we do well on floor, it means we did well as a team."

Accordingly, Iowa's top two floor scores of the season have come in Iowa's two highest scoring meets.

Reive said it's comforting to know his team has improved so much on floor exercise after a shaky start to the season.

"I'm a lot more at ease with where we are," he said. "I expected them to get here, but along the way, you get stressed out thinking, 'We got to fix this, and we got to fix this.' They have really come into their own."

A big part of the success on floor exercise has come from McGrath. The sophomore, currently ranked seventh in the nation on floor — a position that could earn him All-American status at season's end — has posted Iowa's four highest scores on the event, including a school record 15.500 against Nebraska. He said it's nice to be able to support his fellow Hawkeyes with good scores.

"It's been really nice to back my teammates up a little bit, so they can count on me to have a solid score there," he said.

Reive said McGrath has performed well as Iowa's last guy on the event — the best competitor on an event typically goes last — and said he has become a huge part of the Hawkeye team score. Reive also noted that the return of senior Ben Ketelsen, who injured his knee on floor on Feb. 11 against Minnesota, in the last few meets has helped improve the scores as well.

Floor exercise is usually one of Iowa's first two events, so starting strong is crucial, sophomore Timm Krueger said, and the Hawkeyes build momentum for the rest of the meet with good floor scores.

With the two biggest events of the season — the Big Ten and NCAA championships — on the horizon, it's great for the Hawkeyes to peak in the event.

"Floor is such a huge scoring event," Krueger said. "So when you can do really well, especially when it's one of your first events, it gives you a lot of momentum."

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