Feb. 22, 2011
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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 — Friday night. 7 p.m. The University of Iowa Field House. Mark your calendar. Come out and support a great team, and a great cause.
The Iowa women’s gymnastics team hosts in-state rival Iowa State Friday night in its annual ‘Think Pink: Breast Cancer Awareness’ meet. The GymHawks get their second chance at the Cyclones when they return to Iowa City for the second meeting in seven days.
Last Friday, the Hawkeyes posted their second-highest score of the year, but came up short against Iowa State in Ames 196.350-195.850. The GymHawks set a season-high mark on beam, and senior Rebecca Simbhudas won the all-around competition with a score of 39.475. The win was her third-straight all-around title and fifth of the year.
This time around, the meet is in Iowa’s home venue, the UI Field House.
Iowa typically competes in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, but this season the UI Field House is home due to the Carver-Hawkeye Arena revitalization. The GymHawks have made the necessary adjustments and have had strong showings thus far in their new environment, especially in the win over No. 7 Michigan on Jan. 22 and most recently over nationally-ranked Denver.
“We do not normally compete in the Field House, but you learn to find the positive in every situation,” said head coach Larissa Libby about the win over Michigan. “The great thing about the Field House is that it is loud. The atmosphere was electric that night and you could tell the crowd was very pro-Iowa.
“It was exciting for our kids; to hear people screaming and cheering; and looking around knowing that that place was packed to the rim for them. You always compete better when the crowd is going crazy, and I really think that was the difference in beating Michigan that day.
“Ask any football player what it feels like to run out on the field with a packed house. Gymnastics is no exception. Naturally, your adrenaline takes over and you become more pumped up for competitions, but atmosphere is everything. There is no adrenaline boost that can substitute for a packed house of screaming fans decked out in home team colors. Nothing will ever be able to compare to that feeling. When your atmosphere is that exciting, you almost forget that another team is there, and that is exactly what happened on the day we beat Michigan. We hope to continue to pack it to the rim because it does make a huge difference.”
“I think women’s gymnastics is one of the best kept secrets on this campus. We have had several people come to one meet and say `wow, I had no idea how talented the team was or what you guys are capable of doing or how much fun those meets are.’ We want people to be fired up. Generally, when people walk away from our meets, they had no idea that it could be that exciting or that fun.”
Head Coach Larissa Libby
For Hawkeye fans, this is the perfect chance to make a difference; for a couple reasons. Not only is this meet arguably the biggest for Iowa to date, but it also serves as the team’s annual breast cancer awareness meet.
“This competition is important for two reasons,” said Libby. “Certainly, state pride plays a huge role in this one. The rivalry that has been in existence for years is something that everyone understands and can feel a part of on some level. It is tradition, and we want to do our part to make sure it stays a Hawkeye state.”
More importantly, the Hawkeyes hope to raise awareness for the fight against breast cancer.
“It has always been personal for us,” said Libby. “For one reason, my former assistant coach Talya Vexler, is the reason that the ‘pink meets’ started within the gymnastics community. She was a gymnast at Georgia and was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 23. She later became our assistant coach and it became important for us to help her raise awareness.”
The Hawkeyes want to stress awareness of the disease.
“I think, unfortunately, there are more people in this world that are affected then not,” said Libby. “When you speak to people these days there is always someone who knows of someone else that either had breast cancer or knows of someone affected by it. Talya was told she was too young to have it so she waited.
“I coach upwards of 15-18 young ladies each year, all in the age range that would qualify as ‘too young.’ It is important to me to heighten their awareness so they never believe they are too young. Many young girls follow our team, so we have an opportunity while they are a captive audience to spread the word and raise awareness.”
This meet serves as a great chance to support the team against its rival and against breast cancer. In addition, it is a great opportunity to watch one of the most exciting events on the University of Iowa campus.
“I think women’s gymnastics is one of the best kept secrets on this campus,” said Libby. “We have had several people come to one meet and say ‘wow, I had no idea how talented the team was or what you guys are capable of doing or how much fun those meets are.’ I think the misconception with gymnastics is people see it on TV in the elite setting and it is quiet. That is not what we are all about. We want people to be fired up. Generally, when people walk away from our meets, they had no idea that it could be that exciting or that fun.”
The GymHawks are now ranked 15th nationally. The last time the squad was ranked as high was 2004. Iowa advanced to nationals that year and is primed for another exciting run this year.
Friday night. 7 p.m. The UI Field House. Do not miss the chance to be a part of this great event.