24 Hawkeyes to Watch: Nikki Youd

Feb. 11, 2015

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Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Monday, Aug. 4, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2014-15 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.


IOWA CITY, Iowa — Nikki Youd is more than 1,000 miles from her hometown of Panama City, Florida, but the freshman feels at home with the University of Iowa women’s gymnastics program.

“A lot of people from where I live don’t go far (away from home), so they were surprised I wanted to go somewhere as far as Iowa,” said Youd. “I wanted to try something new, I love it here.”


Youd spent a lot of time as a swimmer in Virginia before moving to Florida as a 7-year old. When she couldn’t find a club team to join, one of her friend’s introduced her to gymnastics and the skills involved in the sport.

“I wanted to try it,” said Youd. “I never thought I would get into it as much as I did.”

Youd became entrenched in the sport and progressed quickly.

By the time she was 13, her club coaches, Steve and Sue Arkell, told her collegiate gymnastics might be an option. By 2012, she was the Eastern National Champion in the all-around, vault, and beam, and the following year she placed ninth on the beam at the 2013 Junior Olympic National Championships.

Youd found her way onto UI head coach Larissa Libby‘s radar through junior Alie Glover another gymnast on the Hawkeye roster. Youd and Glover trained at Gymnastics Plus in Florida.

“You’re always looking if you have that tie into a great club that has fantastic coaching,” said Libby. “If you can get one, you keep feeding the others because you know what you’re going to get.”

Libby liked what she saw in Youd’s potential.

“I felt like she wasn’t at the peak of her gymnastics, she had a long way to go as far as where she could be, and I like that,” said Libby. “We committed Nikki two years before she could commit. You have to be careful and make sure you’re finding the person that can go the distance, not only physically, but mentally.”

Youd leaned on Glover for advice.

“Allie had nothing but good things to say about Larissa and the program,” said Youd. “I contacted Larissa, and she came down to watch our practice, and from there, I kind of fell in love.”

Youd jumpstarted her Iowa career early by enrolling in summer classes in June, 2014. The move helped her become acclimated to life as a collegiate freshman — not only in the gym, but in starting a new chapter socially.

“I have grown a lot since I got here in June,” said Youd. “I am an independent person, so I like the challenge of being at college and doing everything yourself.”

Youd bought into the program’s philosophy from the first day she stepped foot on the UI campus.

“That’s what makes her most successful, there is no questioning what she was going to do, how she would do it, or the manner it was going to be done,” said Libby. “She listens and everything to her is important. Everything you say is valuable and important.”

Youd has regularly been competing in three events early in the 2015 season. She posted a season-best 9.700 on the vault in her collegiate debut at Louisiana State; finished third on beam with 9.800 against Michigan State; and had a 9.700 on floor against Ohio State.

Youd has taken the transition to collegiate gymnastics in stride and has embraced the move from the “me” to the “we” mentality.

“That’s the part I like most about collegiate gymnastics, but it is the most different,” she said. “In club, all you care about is how well you do, and even though you have your teammates, it doesn’t matter, it’s all about you.

“I love what I can do for the team, and how I can help the team.”

That attitude has Libby praising Youd as a Hawkeye.

“She never puts herself first,” said Libby. “You can see that in practice; she cares deeply for her teammates, coaches, and anybody that works with her. She is always willing to do whatever it takes to put the team ahead. It’s rare to find that in a young woman; we’re lucky.”

Libby has seen Youd’s confidence progress during the first month of the season, and she has shown an unwavering demeanor in competitions.

“She’s calm and cool, you’ll never see her up or down,” said Libby. “It takes a lot to rattle her. For how young she is, she handles herself with grace and integrity at all times, and it shows out there.

“We’re pleased with where she is, every challenge we’ve given to her, she has taken it, run with it, and surpassed it. Right now she’s competing consistently in three events, and we’re holding her back in a fourth.

“She would tell you she’s OK doing one or four, whatever it takes to make the team successful. That’s who she is.”

She’s a Floridian who is at home as a Hawkeye.

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