2008 Season Preview

Oct. 17, 2007

Depth, consistency, competitive experience and team cohesion are the main focus for Iowa Gymnastics this season. The Hawkeyes have strong senior leadership, both academically and athletically, followed by juniors and sophomores who understand what it takes to be the best. They also have a freshman class that is enthusiastic and ready for action. The Hawkeyes are primed for another successful season.

Last season was great for the Hawkeyes. The coaching staff felt as though the year was extremely productive in moving the team forward and laying the ground work necessary for the Hawks to be successful in the 2008 season. With changes to the program last season, the Hawkeyes responded on all levels.

“The biggest key to our success was that the team bought into `the plan.’ They saw the progress and believed we were on the right track,” said Coach Libby,

“If the team can compete with the focus, energy and pride that they train with, we should be ranked among the top 25 again.”
Iowa Head Coach Larissa Libby

Finishing off the season with Katie Burke’s qualification to the NCAA Championships was huge for our program. The new goal will be to capitalize on Katie’s Championship experience and prove to the team that NCAA’s is no longer a dream, it is reality”.

Iowa’s senior class, consisting of Burke, Amanda Rudolph, and Ally Zipse, will be the leaders of the 2008 squad. With two academic all-Big Ten honors, as well as an individual NCAA Championship appearance, Iowa’s senior class is ready to take on their leadership role.

Burke had an amazing competitive season. Claiming academic all-Big Ten honors for her second consecutive year, Big Ten Gymnast of the Week, and a selection to the all-Big Ten first team, she was Iowa’s sole NCAA Championship competitor last season.

“Katie did a really great job last year figuring out her competitive self,” said Coach Libby. “She has always been an amazing gymnast but it took her two years to realize it. The experience that Katie gained at NCAA’s was inspiring. She has seen what the best in the country look like and is ready to push herself to the limit in order to train and compete at that level.

Zipse had one of her most consistent seasons last year. Although she was injured early in the season, the confidence she gained should help her to begin this season with a total belief in herself and in her abilities.

“We were very pleased with Ally’s success last season,” said Coach Libby. “She made a great number of changes and really brought her competitive gymnastics to another level.”

Rudolph had a great season as well. For a majority of the year she competed in the vault line-up but worked hard to gain, and maintain, a spot in the floor line-up.

“I think that Amanda has figured out the level of training she needs in order to be consistent in competition. Now that she has gained this knowledge we are hopeful that she will use it to secure her spots in both the floor and vault line-up,” said Coach Libby.

The 2008 junior class will be represented by Brandi Loffer, Brittany Logan, Kara Pinjuv, and Jenifer Simbhudas.

Pinjuv is coming off her first real competitive season, and an incredible one at that. Second only to Burke in accolades and accomplishments, Kara proved that she was ready to compete again. Pinjuv finished third in the all-around at the Big Ten Championships, earning academic all Big Ten honors and a selection to the All Big Ten team as well as capping the year off with a qualification to The NCAA Regional championships.

“Kara trains above and beyond what we ask of her. In the back of her mind she is putting herself in a position of no regret,” said Coach Libby.

With her high scores and top rankings last season, Kara came to be one of Iowa’s most consistent competitors. The Hawkeyes will look to have Kara back in the all-around. She will be a key component in leading the team to post-season appearances this year.

Simbhudas had a good, but challenging, 2007. Hampered with injuries most of the season, Simbhudas found it difficult to maintain consistency in competition.

“Through a majority of the season Jen was doing just enough to feel good about competing but we weren’t able to get near the numbers we needed in order for her to become more consistent,” Coach Libby said. “She is extremely talented and because of that she was able to compete even without training to a high level. No athlete can maintain confidence and consistency if they are unable to train. We are excited at what lies ahead for Jennifer with an injury-free season. Despite her injuries, Simbhudas found her groove by the end of the year and was selected to the all-Big Ten Team as well as a qualification to the NCAA Regional Championships

Loffer trained throughout the summer and returned to school in fantastic shape. She has grown up tremendously over the last season and has really found her place on the team.

“I believe she is comfortable with the leadership she can provide and it shows in her training,” said Coach Libby. “She has gained a whole new outlook on what her contribution level to the team can be. She appears ready to put in the work to achieve that level.”

Logan came to Iowa during the second semester of last season. Unfortunately she was injured early and never had the opportunity to compete. Brittany has worked extremely hard over the summer to put herself in position to compete.

“Brittany has been a great addition to our team. She works extremely hard and loves to be challenged. I look forward to seeing her compete this season,” said Coach Libby.

The sophomore class is comprised of Jenny Donar, Nikki Page and Andrea Hurlburt.

Donar came to Iowa as a walk-on last season. After several months of extremely hard work, Jenny made her first appearance in the vault line-up last season and scored a 9.9 for the Hawkeyes

“Jenny stayed with us over the summer and has made some drastic improvements. She is a completely different gymnast compared to when we first saw her. She will be expected to contribute as an all-arounder at some point for the Hawkeyes,” said Coach Libby.

Page came in as an all-arounder last season and one of Iowa’s best beam workers. She has faced some challenges. One of Nikki’s greatest assets, as an athlete, is that she loves the thrill of competition. If Nikki can stay focused enough to overcome the challenges of last year she will be an amazing asset.

“At the very least we hope to see Nikki back in the beam line-up. When she is focused, she is as good as anyone in the country,” said Coach Libby.

Hurlburt asked to join the Hawkeyes after having been out of gymnastics for two years. Having seen a couple of competitions and being reacquainted with people she had competed with in the past sparked her “competitive itch.” She has been training with the Hawkeyes ever since.

“Andrea really works hard and pushes herself every day. If she continues on the path she is currently on, she should see action in the beam line-up,” said Coach Libby.

Iowa’s freshman class is six deep. A large class that will add the final elements of depth the Hawkeyes will need to be a top competitive team. The class consists of Houry Gebeshian, Rebecca Simbhudas, Arielle Sucich, Kristen Ward, Kelly Galau and Dani McDaniel.

Gebeshian, Simbhudas, Sucich and Ward were all recruited as all-around competitors, while McDaniel and Galau could end up becoming contributors on a couple of events.

“These ladies are the present and future of our program. They will be the difference makers and the trend setters. We will count on this class to shape the future of our program,” said Coach Libby.

In addition to their incredible gymnastic ability, they all bring strong character and personality to the team. They have transitioned quite easily into the traditions and regiments of Iowa gymnastics and have adjusted to the team environment with a great deal of enthusiasm and leadership.

“The team’s success will rely heavily on mental toughness and consistency. We need to do a good job of pacing the freshman class,” said Coach Libby.

The precedent set by Katie Burke last season from attitude to resilience and tenacity, love for her sport and desire to be the best are lessons which have positively affected the team. Katie’s qualification to NCAA Championships changed everything for the Hawkeyes.

“The goal is no longer in the distance, it is attainable and real….Katie did that for us! If the team can compete with the focus, energy and pride that they train with, we should be ranked among the top 25 again,” said Coach Libby.