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Young Iowa gymnastics squad set for final intrasquad meet

BY MATT CABEL | NOVEMBER 30, 2012 6:30 AM

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One of the most important events of the season for Iowa head gymnastics coach Larissa Libby will likely come before the squad faces an opponent.

The GymHawks will enter the Dec. 2 Black and Gold intrasquad meet with only three seniors: Kaitlynn Urano, Maya Wickus and Emma Stevenson. The remainder of the roster is filled with underclassmen, featuring four sophomores and five freshmen.

“We’re going to be using [the intrasquad] more to see what the underclassmen do,” Libby told The Daily Iowan. “We know what to expect with the upperclassmen.”

Entering her ninth season as head coach of the Hawks, Libby said she knows what it takes to lead her team to its sixth-consecutive postseason appearance.

The team needs to check off at least three accomplishments in order to achieve that, Libby said. Those include being one of the best teams in the Big Ten, finishing with a strong home record, and implementing a championship mentality.

Libby said she expects freshmen Alie Glover and Alyssa Lopez to join sophomores Sydney Hoerr and Emma Willis in all-around competition.

“We could potentially have a really big impact on this team,” Glover said. “We have a lot of talent that can help out a lot.”

Libby and her staff will closely watch their young gymnasts during this weekend’s intrasquad, the first open to the public. Focus will be key for the young gymnasts as they leave the confines of their practice space for competition. The different environment, atmosphere and waiting time between events were points Libby said affect transitions.

“It’s a heavy load to bear for younger kids,” she said. “I think that they will be incredibly impressive once they get out there and get used to it. Hopefully, all of the intrasquads we’ve done will put them in a position to be hungry enough and just get tired of always doing this in practice and get out there in competition and show them what they’re made of.”

With an underclassmen-heavy team, the leadership responsibilities of the seniors are extremely important. Both Stevenson — a member of last year’s Big Ten All-Championship team — and Wickus stressed the importance of leading by example.

“They’re great leaders. They’re almost like second coaches,” Glover said. “They give us great advice; they’ve been there, they know, they’ve been in our shoes. They can tell us when we’re doing something wrong, even the little things: how to act, how to do gymnastics, just anything. They help us out a lot.”

But with youth comes new opportunities for the GymHawks — not only in breaking old habits but improving as individuals and as a team.

“I think the youth is making us better,” Stevenson said. “It’s driving me and the seniors to keep up with what we’re doing. They’re younger; they have a lot more energy. They’re pushing us, too, as well as we’re pushing them.”


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