Leading By Example

March 13, 2006

Heart and soul.

When Iowa women gymnastics seniors Liz Grajewski and Kortny Williamson step off the mat for the last time, they will be remembered for their courage and strength.

“They’re the heart and soul of the team right now, the competitive leaders. They’re the most consistent people we have right now,” said Head Coach Larissa Libby.

“We’re not just losing gymnastics from them, we’re losing what is Iowa gymnastics. The heart and soul of Iowa gymnastics until it’s recreated in our younger kids.”

Grajewski hails from Covington, WA. In her freshman year at Iowa, she was voted Most Hawkeye Spirited. She continued to grow her sophomore year. She tied for second on the floor exercise three times. At the NCAA Regionals, she tied for ninth on the beam. Last year she won the all-around at the Hearts Invitational and the floor against Illinois-Chicago.

Heading into her senior year, Libby knew Grajewski could provide the emotional spark for the team.

“Liz is the heart of team. From the moment you walk in gym, you can tell she’s the emotional leader. The team is very flat without her emotion,” said Libby.

Despite competing through injuries and fatigue, Grajewski is having a senior season to remember. In her last home meet she placed second in both the floor and the all-around.

Looking back on her experiences at Iowa, Grajewski is proud of what she accomplished in competition as well as the friendships she made along the way.

“I would say the best part is the family atmosphere, the girls and the coaches. We’re all very close. It’s an honor to compete for this program and for Iowa,” she said.

“I want to be remembered as someone who loved the team and the program and was a true Hawkeye, bleeding black and gold.”

Williamson, who comes from Manheim, PA, joined the Iowa program as a two-time state vault champion and state champion on bars and all-around. While she posted impressive numbers in her first three years, this year has been her best. In addition to placing first on the vault in her last home meet, Williamson was named co-Big Ten Gymnast of the Week for her strong performance against Texas Women’s University. She placed first on beam and tied for first on vault in that competition.

It’s Williamson’s work ethic that has Libby saddened by her impending graduation departure.

“Kortny is a steady competitor. She walks in gym ready to go at every moment,” said Coach Libby.

Despite the challenges she’s faced in her career, Williamson is looking to finish on top.

“I just want to put it all out there. I want to go out on a high note,” she said.

With just a few meets left in their careers, Libby gets emotional when thinking about losing her team leaders.

“They’ve done an excellent job. They’ve both come into their own this year as team leaders. They’ve led by example which makes me very proud. It’s one thing to say you’re a team leader and another to live it.”

“I’ll miss everything. I’ll really miss their laughter. The laughter they bring to the gym. The jokes that only we know about. I’ll miss Kortny’s tough edge and all her Harley-Davidson riding stories. I’ll miss Liz’s personality and all the crazy things she does,” she said.

Grajewski and Williamson have been through a lot in their four years. They’ve competed for two different coaches. They’ve dealt with injuries, fatigue and a young team. Yet despite everything, they’ve prospered. When they walk off the mat for the last time, they will be doing so with their heads held high.

“It’s been a rough road with coaching transitions and different philosophies. They’ve been able to fight for Iowa gymnastics and continue to believe Iowa will be big again. To say we are losing the heart and soul of Iowa gymnastics is probably an understatement,” said Libby.

written by Jennifer Bissell, Iowa Sports Information