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Women's GymHawks to face in-state rival ISU

BY ALEX FRENCH | JANUARY 27, 2012 7:20 AM

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Another chapter of the 2011 Cy-Hawk Series is set to take place in Ames tonight, when the No. 23 Iowa women's gymnastics team will square off against Iowa State.

The Cyclones lead the season series, 13-6, across all sports; an Iowa win tonight would boost the Black and Gold's total in the series by 2 points.

GymHawk head coach Larissa Libby admitted the rivalry is difficult to look past but said her team is focused on the big-picture goal — specifically, that each meet has the potential to push the Hawkeyes toward a conference title.

"We know it's Iowa-Iowa State, and for the hype of the state, we acknowledge it," Libby said. "But in order for us to be prepared for a Big Ten championship, we have to remain focused on what our process is — and our process doesn't acknowledge who's in the gym."

She noted that each opponent provides a different challenge, whether in the conference or not.

But in a sport in which wins and losses aren't necessarily as important as the team score, the GymHawks are primarily focused on improving their individual and overall performances.

"We can go there and score a 196 and still lose, but would we be pleased? Absolutely. We'd be pleased because it's a step forward," Libby said. "The goal is to keep moving forward and not have that moment where we come crashing backwards."

Iowa improved its score by nearly 2 points in its two Big Ten meets, posting a 193.225 against Michigan State and a 195.075 against No. 15 Illinois.

Junior Emma Stevenson said team chemistry is at a high, and the recent improved results have helped team confidence.

"We're all very confident coming into the gym each day. Practices are efficient, geared toward really working on what we need to improve this week," said Stevenson, who competes in the vault, bars, and floor routine. "We knew all along this was going to be a good year. We think we're better than No. 23."

Libby said she's pleased with the direction her team is heading.

"The best thing is their ability to see the mistakes that were made and how easily it can be corrected — the little, little things that can make a massive difference in scoring," she said. "They've really focused on that this week."

Kaitlynn Urano — who competes on the bars, balance beam, and floor — said she noticed a recent upswing in team confidence.

"We're more involved with each other, cheering, and staying together in groups," she said. "Everyone looks a lot more confident."

Libby said focusing on the big picture is important. But to get there, she said, the team needs to devote attention to its short-term goal: nailing down consistently strong team scores.

"We have little goals for each meet because I think you have to; when you're focused so much on the bigger picture, you lose sight on what's the process," she said. "Does a win against Iowa State help that? Certainly, but in a different way. It helps us within our state, within our community, and with people acknowledging a great gymnastics team."


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