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Emma Willis key to GymHawks' success

BY MATT CABEL | FEBRUARY 15, 2013 5:00 AM

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Emma Willis is a soft-spoken woman. Instead of talking, she lets her skills speak for her.

So far, that choice has worked out for her.

The native of Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, has been a key component in the GymHawks’ success this season. Her biggest meet of the season occurred last week against Michigan State and Illinois-Chicago. The sophomore won first place in the uneven bars competition with a score of 9.875 and tied with Hawkeye freshman Kyra Trowbridge for first on the floor with a score of 9.9.

Willis has been doing gymnastics since she was 2 and has competed in numerous world events. Head coach Larissa Libby praised her as not only an athlete but as a teammate, noting her hard work on her gymnastics and the care she has for her teammates.

“She doesn’t want to be put in the limelight. Ever,” Libby said. “She would take every accomplishments she’s ever had and throw them away to make the team successful.”

While not vocal about her own accomplishments, Willis works with her teammates to help them earn their own.

Freshman Alie Glover said Willis is quiet about what she’s achieved during her career.

“She’s such a great teammate,” Glover said. “She’s so encouraging and always has such a great energy around the gym. She has great corrections, whether it’s gymnastics or just encouraging you every day.”

Willis said that her hard work and determination were key parts in her success in the meet, but she was quick to thank her teammates as well. To replicate the success, she wants to focus on small details and perfecting all of her skills.

“It’s always helpful to have someone pushing you from behind,” Willis said. “I think that’s what they’re there for. They’re my support system.”

Willis found her way to Iowa City after deciding her gymnastics career needed a new beginning.

Before coming to Iowa, Willis competed for Canada in the 2010 World Championships and other national level competitions. Some of her injuries were so bad that Willis thought about giving up her career.

“I had originally said no to a scholarship,” she said. “Then I got injured, and things weren’t working out in my career. I wasn’t ready to be done with gymnastics, but I needed a change.”

Libby believes that Willis has yet to showcase her true skills and potential, saying that the sophomore is just beginning to relish competition and show off the plethora of skills she has in her arsenal. She believes Willis is capable of better scores than what she’s done, and she’ll have a chance Saturday, when the squad travels to Champaign to face No. 21 Illinois.

“You’re only seeing the very bottom of what [Emma’s] capable of,” Libby said. “She can do so much more when she lets herself, and she will. She’s getting to that point where she’s not guessing anymore, she knows what’s going to happen, and she can control what’s happening.”

Head to dailyiowan.com for more coverage of the Iowa gymnastics teams this weekend.


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