Dec. 30, 2004
This year it’s all about the team.
The Iowa women’s gymnastics team is ready to prove to the gymnastics world that the Iowa Hawkeyes are a force to be reckoned with. Not only that, but the team will show that Iowa gymnastics is a national-caliber program that has the most fun possible.
After losing a head coach and four seniors, including three-time all-American Alexis Maday and all-American Stephanie Gran, the GymHawks squad consists of two seniors, two juniors, four sophomores and four freshmen.
Former Associate Head Coach Larissa Libby steps into the head coach position for the GymHawks, having already proved invaluable in her previous four years at Iowa. She is joined by fourth-year Assistant Coach Derek May and newcomer Steve Biondo. Together, they have a wealth of talent that complements the talents of the gymnasts.
The Senior Class
Senior Mindi Levitz will look to contribute on floor, vault and beam. Mindi has been a solid performer for the GymHawks on vault and floor, and hopes to join the beam lineup this season. Not only does Mindi contribute at meets, but she is a team cheerleader and motivator in the gym.
“Mindi epitomizes our philosophy of working hard but having fun,” said Libby.
Annie Rue received all-Big Ten honors in 2003 and is a three-time NCAA Championships competitor. She has competed in the all-around the last three seasons. Annie will use her experience to help contribute to the team in the all-around again.
“Annie is a very stable competitor,” said Libby. “We expect her to be one of the leaders on floor.”
The Junior Class
“The junior class is taking the bull by the horns and is ready to go,” said Libby. “They feel this is their opportunity to shine and to take the team in a direction they want to.”
The shining stars of the junior class are Liz Grajewski and Kortny Williamson. Liz and Kortny are both capable of competing in the all-around for the Hawkeyes.
“Liz was one of our highest, most consistent performers last season,” said Libby.
Liz has an energetic floor routine to contribute to the GymHawks, as well as a great beam routine and vault.
Kortny was second team all-Big Ten last season and was a consistent contributor on vault, beam and floor. She will continue to add her talents to these events, as well as bars.
The Sophomore Class
Beth Dilick had several strong performances last year on bars and vault. She will be stepping up into a leader position on bars. Beth also has beautiful beam and floor routines that she could contribute to the team this season.
Danielle Legeai was a consistent floor and beam worker last season. She scored a 9.9 at NCAA Regionals on beam to help clinch the GymHawks’ trip to the NCAA Championships. This season, Danielle will continue her solid beam and floor work, as well as adding her routine to the bars and vault lineups.
Romina Mazzoni joined the GymHawks halfway through last season and has the capabilities of being an all-arounder. She will contribute her amazing bar routine for Iowa.
“Romina has the most beautiful swing and the biggest releases in our gym,” said Libby. Romina also looks to add her beam, floor and vault routines to the lineups.
Bobbie Zimmerman did an excellent job for the GymHawks last season. She competed strongly on floor and bars, and will contribute on those events this season as well.
The Freshman Class
The freshmen are looking to carry the torch for the GymHawks.
“They are a great bunch of girls who have come ready to go,” said Libby. “They’re very intense in practice and carrying on the tradition of winning.”
Katie Burke is from Palatine, IL. She is the 2004 high school national all-around champion and 2002 Region V athlete of the year. Katie will impact the all-around almost immediately for the GymHawks.
“Katie is very strong on bars,” said Libby. “She’s an excellent beam worker and is looking to push her way into the vault lineup.”
Natalie Padilla hails from Bonita, CA. She is expected to compete on vault, beam and floor.
“Natalie is beautiful to watch on beam,” said Libby. “She’s very graceful, very solid, and should easily contribute there.”
Amanda Rudolph is from West Bend, WI, and has shown her gymnastics abilities through placing 10th on bars and floor at the 2004 Level 10 nationals. She will be an immediate contributor to floor and vault, and looks to help on bars and beam as well.
“Amanda is an excellent tumbler and has a lot of strength on vault,” said Libby.
Ally Zipse comes to Iowa from Fort Wayne, IN, where she was the 2004 vault, floor, bars and all-around state champion. Ally will contribute on three events and possibly bars. Her commitment to the team and strong work ethic will help her move into the all-around lineup.
On the way to proving their national prominence, the GymHawks will face a tough schedule from beginning to end. The season opens at the Super Six Challenge against top-ranked teams Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Arizona and Penn State. Next, Iowa travels to No. 20 Denver, whom they beat last year at regionals to advance to the NCAA Championships. The GymHawks will also face Iowa State twice as part of the Hy-Vee Cy-Hawk Series. In the last three meets of the season, the GymHawks will travel to Minnesota, Michigan and Auburn.
“This will push our mental toughness,” said Libby. “It’s not going to be an easy season. We will be focusing on improving each meet.”
The GymHawks also will host the Big Ten Championships this season. With a home advantage, Iowa is ready to show the conference its strength and take the Big Ten title.
As the GymHawks prepare for a season without last year’s seniors or head coach, the attention is on the team.
“Everything the team talks about, everything they do, everything they focus on, is proving to people that while last year’s seniors were amazing, our team has so much more now, said Libby.”
And the GymHawks are ready to prove it.