Injured GymHawks finding success with young talent

BY MATT CABEL | MARCH 14, 2013 5:00 AM

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The Iowa women’s gymnastics team is relying on the fountain of youth.

The GymHawks, whose roster features three seniors, no juniors, four sophomores, and nine freshmen, has already relied heavily on contributions from freshmen Alie Glover and Kyra Trowbridge this season.

The team is now relying on contributions from freshman Adara Griffin and Opua Calucag as they near the Big Ten championship and qualifying for the NCAAs.

“It’s the reason why you have to train everybody,” head coach Larissa Libby said. “You never know what’s going to happen. To the best of your ability, we keep everyone that’s capable of being ready, ready.”

The injuries began when sophomore Jessica Morreale had surgery to repair her torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus. It continued with an injury to freshman Alyssa Lopez, who will undergo surgery today. The worst blow came on March 7, when senior Kaitlynn Urano broke her tibia and fibula while practicing her beam routine.

Griffin’s biggest contributions have come on the vault. The Moline, Ill., native has proven herself in the event, which the GymHawks have struggled with at times this season. Griffin scored a 9.7 when the Hawks defeated Minnesota Feb. 22. Against Iowa State on March 8, Griffin scored a career high of 9.825.

“When Kait got hurt, it was really tragic,” Griffin said. “I realized that I would really have to step it up. I’m trying my best, but it’s really hard to fill her shoes.”

Griffin also competed on the bars for the first time against the Cyclones, where she scored a 9.025. Trowbridge will also get her first chance on the uneven bars this weekend against Southern Utah, San Jose State, and Ball State.

“I’m really bad with pressure right now — that’s my weakness,” Griffin said. “Stepping into [Kaitlynn’s] shoes, my mentality is just trying to relax and have confidence in myself, knowing that I can do these things and get the scores that she would.”

Calucag has also been given an opportunity to perform on beam for the GymHawks. The freshman competed in an exhibition against Nebraska on March 4, scoring an 8.6. Libby gave Calucag another chance against the Cyclones, where she scored a 9.075.

“She conducts herself the same way all the time,” Libby said of Calucag. “You need that. We need that. Especially right now. She’s never going to look you in the face and tell you that she can’t or isn’t going to do it.”

Calucag said that she’s more excited than nervous to be finding a spot in the lineup after tearing her ACL last year.

“I actually didn’t really think about that,” she said about filling in for the seniors. “I was more so thinking about doing it for the team.”

Libby referred to the freshmen as unsung heroes because of their performances in less than ideal circumstances. 

“We would not have survived without them, and we will continue to survive because of them,” she said. “It sucks to be in their position; it really does. But they’re doing the best that they can in the worst of circumstances, and we still expect to win. We still expect to challenge for a Big Ten championship. That’s just what we have to do.”

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