GymHawks Ready For Stretch Run

Feb. 15, 2011

Iowa Women’s Gymnastics on YouTube

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa – – The Iowa women’s gymnastics team is ready for the stretch run. Coming off two victories over the weekend, the GymHawks are preparing for crunch time, and are just hitting their stride.

Head Coach Larissa Libby, in her seventh year at the helm of the program and her 11th overall at Iowa, is pleased with the progress the team has made to this point. The early season win over defending Big Ten champion and seventh-ranked Michigan was a prime example.

“So far it has been going great,” said Libby. “The thing that we want to relay the most is not to look at wins and losses in women’s gymnastics, it does not count. We could lose every single meet and still be national champions. The most important thing is to raise the score.

“For the most part, we are well beyond where we were at any point last year. It took us a long time to get to a 195, and we were not in a position to challenge a team like Michigan. Michigan is the defending Big Ten champion, so to have defeated them in the first home meet was a huge deal for our program. I think it has set the pace for what we expect to be.”

The pace over the past three seasons has led Iowa to an NCAA Regional appearance. The scary part for opponents: the Hawkeyes are getting better and continue to improve their team score.

“The scores that we have been getting since the season started are scores we could not get until the end of the season last year,” said Libby. “The quality of what is being done on our team is far superior to where it was last year. So for me, on the outside, people probably cannot see that the plan is coming into fruition, but it is doing exactly what we expected to do. The girls are really pushing themselves and pushing each other to perfection.”

Senior Houry Gebeshian, who captured the second Big Ten title on beam in program history a year ago, senior Rebecca Simbhudas, who earned All-American honors on beam last year, and junior Jessa Hansen, are leading the charge.

Last Friday, the Hawkeyes downed No. 20 Denver 196.350-196.200. Simbhudas took home at least a share of the title in three events and won the all-around competition (39.525). Hansen had a career best performance in the all-around, finishing second (39.425). Gebeshian set season marks in three events, including the all-around.

“The quality of the gymnastics is there, when we put it all together, they are going to be dangerous.”
Head Coach Larissa Libby

Sunday, in Iowa’s impressive win over Wisconsin-Stout (195.300-183.200), Gebeshian won bars with a score of 9.875, tying her career high. In addition, Simbhudas won her second all-around title of the weekend and fourth of the year, posting a score of 38.750.

While Libby is pleased, she knows there is room for improvement.

“There is still so much room for improvement,” said Libby. “We are still making little mistakes, but the mistakes that are being made are those that are fixable. I am excited at the length of the season we are about to get into because it is the back half where the pressure starts coming on, and our team is starting to peak at the right time.

“More than anything, the right mentality is there. It wasn’t there before. Last season, and years prior, they were guessing whether or not they were good enough. There is no guessing now. The quality of the gymnastics is there, when we put it all together, they are going to be dangerous.”

The team’s results have improved, that is easy to see. Perhaps more importantly, the team’s mentality has changed too.

“They are starting to hold themselves like champions,” said Libby. “It bodes well for the long haul. We have always walked into the back half of the season thinking we are underdogs and we can triumph. I don’t think they think that anymore. Now, they think they should be the team everyone is gunning for. Within the next three or four meets, it is going to be a completely different team.”

The Hawkeyes look to continue their winning ways when they travel to rival Iowa State Friday night. Iowa then returns to the UI Field House, where it is unbeaten, next Friday to battle Iowa State again. The meet will begin at 7 p.m. It is a key home meet for the GymHawks, as it also serves as the team’s annual Breast Cancer Awareness night.

Following the two meets against the Cyclones, the Hawkeyes will have three more competitions before the Big Ten Championships. It is safe to say it is crunch time, and the GymHawks are peaking at just the right time.