Oct. 5, 2015
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By MEGAN ROWLEY
IOWA CITY, Iowa — After spending a year training in any and every space that could accommodate its program, the University of Iowa women’s gymnastics team is reaping the benefits of its newly renovated practice gym inside the UI Field House.
“It is the kid in the candy store effect being able to come into the gym every day and know that it is new, it is yours, and you are able to take care of it,” said UI head coach Larissa Libby. “The ideas that the girls have in their heads about the skills they will be able to acquire are exciting. Skill acquisition at the beginning of the season is huge for us.
“In the past we haven’t been able to do a lot. We have done some pretty miraculous things, but as far as safety and longevity, it was difficult to get through the whole season and to work on those skills for a very long time.”
Eager to begin training for the upcoming season, the GymHawks wasted little time breaking in the upgraded facility over the summer and fall months.
“The new facility has been great,” said junior Lexi Mura. “It has allowed us to train bigger, harder, and longer. It has really saved our bodies. It is also much bigger so we have the room to spread out and work on what we need to.”
Senior Alie Glover echoes her teammate’s sentiments.
“It helps us train new skills that we weren’t able to do before safely,” said Glover. “We can effectively and safely train over a long period of time now.
“It also helps us nail our new skills quicker and earlier in the season. It has helped us build confidence and gain new skills.”
The new facility has helped the GymHawks grow in more ways than one, but one area in particular will continue to impact the future of the program.
“The other benefit is recruiting,” said Libby. “We have had several recruits come through here in the past couple months and now we feel like we are the total package. I think that the University of Iowa is amazing. Academically, the school recruits itself, so to have the gym to put that whole package together makes us the real deal.”
“Now the goal is to expand our reach all over the country and branch out to a whole different level of kid that wants to be successful academically, but also wants to go to the next level athletically.”
The GymHawk community joined in the excitement of the new space over the summer — attending the inaugural round of camps in the facility.
“Working the camps this summer was so much fun,” said Mura. “The kids were great and had so much energy.”
The extra space granted by the renovation also allowed the team to expand their reach in the community.
“It has been great because we have been able to open it up to far more kids where as in the past we had to cap it,” said Libby. “We were also able to bring in more coaches because we had more kids. The kids were incredibly excited to train in the new facility and to train high-level skills without having to be spotted. We were able to have stations where they were able to learn new things safely, which has a huge impact for us.
“They had this pride from being the first camp to go into the new facility. It has been tremendous and the outpouring from the community and their excitement for us has been pretty incredible.”
With all the support from the community and the athletics department, the GymHawks — who have earned NCAA Regional berths in seven of the last eight years — are ready to make a big splash this season.
“We are so grateful to the program and to everyone who helped to make this facility a possibility for us,” said Mura. “It has been amazing to have so much support. Having the community behind us gives us that extra push to prove that we were worth the investment.”
The women’s gymnastics program invites all alumni to experience the new facility this homecoming weekend. The GymHawks will be hosting an open house at 5 p.m. (CT) at the facility — located inside the UI Field House — on Oct. 10.