Iowa women's gymnastics looking to rebound in NCAA Regionals

BY MATT CABEL | APRIL 05, 2013 5:00 AM

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It all comes down to this.

The Iowa women’s gymnastics team will compete Saturday in the NCAA Regional in Norman, Okla. — 10 days after the GymHawks had their worst performance of the season, a 193.4 in the Big Ten meet on March 23. Their performance Saturday could earn them a ticket to Los Angeles for the NCAA championships on April 19.

“It looked like we had thrown 20 kids together and three coaches and said ‘Hey, be a team,’ ” head coach Larissa Libby said about her team’s performance in East Lansing. “That’s not how we function, and it hurt us tremendously.”

It will take a valiant effort from the GymHawks to qualify for the NCAAs. Only the top two of the six competing teams will earn bids, along with the individual event winners and the two best all-around competitors not on an advancing team.

The Black and Gold will compete against Oklahoma, Stanford, Penn State, Washington, and Southern Utah. Oklahoma is No. 2 team in the nation, Stanford is pegged at No. 11, and Penn State sits at No. 14.

Numerous late-season injuries have caused the already young GymHawks to rely on larger roles for the freshmen. Twenty of the 24 Iowa routines are performed by underclassmen. The biggest contributions have come from freshman Kyra Trowbridge, who led the Hawkeyes on floor, beam, and vault in the Big Ten championship.

“I want to do the exact same thing,” Trowbridge said about leading her team. “I want to keep my head on straight and have everybody behind each other — that’s how we’re going to do better.”

Libby placed her team on a lockdown since its eighth place finish at the conference championships, saying her team has to “shut themselves off from the rest of the world,” focusing only on school and gymnastics. The team will only have contact with each other despite staying in a hotel with other teams in Norman.

“Our downfall at Big Tens was that we weren’t mentally there,” Trowbridge said. “We let the pressure of the meet get to us. We’re more mentally strong now, we’ve been doing more quality instead of quantity for our routines.”

Libby said the team has embraced this lockdown, looking like a completely different team in their practices since the Big Ten championships with distractions taken out of the picture.

“Everything’s not that easy,” senior Emma Stevenson said about the latter half of the season. “If you really focus in on what’s important and what you need to do, and not let other things distract you, that’s the best way to be successful. This is the time of year when that has to happen.”

While it’s been a long second half of the season for the GymHawks, Libby’s squad is committed to the task at hand, and plans on leaving everything behind in Norman.

“They’re all sore, they’re so tired,” Libby said. “We’ve asked them to commit everything that they possibly can — everything they do, they sleep, they eat, they breathe, to these next 10 days, and after that, walk away with no regret.”

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