Big Ten Championships: GymHawks vault through postseason

BY ALEX FRENCH | MARCH 26, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa women's gymnastics team has set, broken, and reset season-high team scores in the vault over the course of the last month.

The GymHawks averaged 49.085 in the last four weeks — beginning at home against Minnesota on Feb. 24 — and concluded the Big Ten championship in Carver-Hawkeye Arena on March 24 with a season-high 49.275 in the event. Iowa averaged 48.66 in the six weeks prior to that stretch.

Emma Stevenson scored 9.875, a career-high, at the Big Tens on March 24 and tied teammate Maya Wickus for 10th overall. Stevenson said a slightly different focus in practice has helped in the team's recent vault success.

"We've been really focusing on the details of our vaults instead of just landing," the junior said. "Sticking has been a big aspect of our training this past month and I think it showed [at Big Tens]."

Iowa posted the fourth-highest vault score at the conference championships out of eight teams. The team ranks fourth in the event in the North-Central Region and is No. 23 nationally.

Hawkeye head coach Larissa Libby said vault has become one of the events on which the team is most confident.

"We've become quite comfortable," she said. "It has become so clean — they're working on sticks and not taking those tiny hops."

All six Iowa vaulters scored 9.775 or better during the championships. Sydney Hoerr and Rachel Corcoran tied for eighth place at 9.85, a career-high for each gymnast.

Wickus, the GymHawks' anchor on vault, is ranked 10th in the region and tied her season best on March 24 with a 9.875.

The GymHawks have followed a rotation pattern in which they begin on vault before going to the bars, beam, and floor exercise for most of their meets this year. The championship format switched the event order because the conference determined each team's rotation prior to the meet; vault became the last event of the day instead of the first.

Wickus said ending the meet on vault instead of starting with it may have helped in the team's mental approach.

"It helped the team to end there," she said. "[Vault] normally gets our adrenaline going, but we knew we were coming from behind … we were able to come together in the end."

Libby said Iowa's vault team has more depth than other event rotations, and it's important to end on an event which "we can go six-for-six."

"[Floor and vault] are endurance and explosive events; they get your adrenaline going," she said. "It's less nerve-racking to go to floor and vault than bar and beam [to close out the meet]."

Libby said the change was never a concern, especially in regards to the vault.

"They're completely confident on vault, they know they're going to make it," she said. "It's not a matter of if they're going to hit; it's 'How good is it going to be?' "

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