GymHawks 'stick' a win in second home meet


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Emma Willis released her grip on the bars, dismounted, and landed on the mat, her feet still, arms raised in the air.

The crowd roared, and Willis rushed to her teammates, giving each one a high-five and hugs.

“Stick, Iowa,” her teammates shouted, clapping their hands five times.

Fine details finally added up for the Iowa women’s gymnastics team in a meet against Michigan State and Illinois-Chicago. The GymHawks placed first in the meet with a score of 195.875, a season high. Michigan State placed second at 194.85, and Illinois-Chicago placed third with 193.225.

“It’s a feeling of satisfaction,” sophomore Willis said about her landing off the bars, which earned her a career high score of 9.875 and first place. She was one of three gymnasts who stuck “perfect” landings during the meet. “You did your job, you did it well, and you can walk away saying, ‘There’s nothing [the judges] could have taken.’ It’s a feeling of awe and satisfaction.”

Iowa began the meet on the vault and scored a 48.65. This was the GymHawks’ weakest event on the night: None of the gymnasts stuck her landing, and it was the only event in which didn’t feature an Iowa gymnast in the top three.

“I would like to figure out how to come out a bit stronger,” head coach Larissa Libby said. “One of the things that I’m very pleased with is that they’re elevating by the end — each event is getting a little bit stronger, a little bit more confident. I would like to start at a higher level, not have that very slim lead and move up. I want them to dominate that first event and take control all the way through.”

The balance beam, once a nightmare for the GymHawks, continues to become a strong point, earning a season high of 48.775. Sophomore Jessica Morreale placed first with a score of 9.875, and she stuck her landing. Sydney Hoerr posted a 9.8 and also executed a successful landing.

“They are fantastic on that event, they just don’t know it yet,” Libby said. “I thought they were much closer to doing what they do in practice than they have been. It’s coming around — it’s all going to line up at the right time.”

The GymHawks continued their string of strong performances on the uneven bars and floor — events for which the team is nationally ranked — 15th and 19th, respectively. The team posted season-high scores on both, a 49.175 on bars and 49.275. Willis and freshman Kyra Trowbridge earned scores of 9.0, which helped to seal the GymHawks’ victory.

“We did amazing, and the best part is that we can still keep doing better,” senior Emma Stevenson said. “We were behind each other every single event, you can tell. Each event [score] got higher and higher. We made a few mistakes, we recovered from the mistakes — and that’s the kind of stuff we need to be doing.”

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