Despite success, underdog mentality will continue for young GymHawks

BY MATT CABEL | MARCH 04, 2013 5:00 AM

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After upsetting undefeated Minnesota and landing a spot in the nation’s top-25 poll, the Iowa women’s gymnastics team continues its streak of tough opponents with Nebraska. The Cornhuskers, ranked No. 10 in the country, are last year’s Big Ten champions. Though they are heavy with underclassmen, the GymHawks are confident and believe they are capable of winning the dual meet.

“We’re well aware that they’re the defending Big Ten champions,” head coach Larissa Libby said.

“Certainly, you hope that your level of competition comes up in that moment. The best thing about gymnastics is that anything can happen. Whether it’s knocking off No. 10, No. 12, whoever that may be, you always hope that your performance is going to be good enough to make that happen.”

In upsetting the Golden Gophers on Feb. 22, the GymHawks scored below their highest overall score of the season with a 195.725. Their highest score of the season, a 195.875, has been reached in two separate meets this season. The team would like to reach its goal of 196 against the Huskers.

Despite all the success the GymHawks have had this season, the youthful squad’s underdog mentality is here to stay. “If you go into every meet thinking that you’re able to overcome the opponent, but it’s not easy, you’re more willing to fight for every little thing,” freshman Alie Glover said.

They will need this mentality — the team will be a bit shorthanded at the Devaney Center this evening. Sophomore Jessica Morreale’s season is over after she had surgery to repair a torn meniscus and anterior cruciate ligament. Freshmen Adara Griffin and Alyssa Lopez also have injuries, but Libby was unsure about their severity. With the frequency of injuries in gymnastics, lineup changes are something that the team is prepared for.

“It’s always in the back of every gymnast’s mind — especially when you’re in a team situation,” Libby said. “We went a long time before we got a significant injury. With our team, who’s so very close, it’s hard to watch one of your teammates go down.”

Senior Kaitlynn Urano believes her team hasn’t become complacent during practice after the Hawkeyes’ upset of Minnesota. For her, she said it doesn’t matter whether the team wins or loses as long as it reaches its goals.

“We had a couple of days on beam where we couldn’t do what we needed to,” Urano said. “Those kind of little things are reminders of how we really do need to focus on the details.”

Urano and seniors Maya Wickus and Emma Stevenson have made big contributions for the GymHawks this season with their performances and in mentoring their young teammates. With the regular season nearing its end and the Big Ten and NCAA championships in sight, the seniors will continue to be vital elements for the team.

Urano said that as a senior leader, she and her teammates have to make sure the rest of the squad is on the same page and focusing on the season’s big picture. “As team leaders, you just have to make sure the rest of the team has our main goal in mind,” Urano said.

That goal? “A Big Ten championship.”

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