GymHawks Come Home

Oct. 13, 2015

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa women’s gymnastics program welcomed alumni back to their old stomping grounds to experience the new facility inside the UI Field House during Homecoming.

“It was like a time warp because they all look the same,” said UI head coach Larissa Libby. “The most exciting thing for me was seeing them play around in the gym and see their children play in the gym. It was just such a great experience for all of us, because it has been so long in the making.”

Decades of GymHawk history filled the newly renovated facility, blending the old with the new and making the space a home.

“The opportunity to come home to Iowa was an incredible chance for not only Iowa gymnastics alumni to reconnect, but for us to share this special place and these incredible experiences with our loved ones,” said former UI gymnast Liz (Grajewski) Johnson. “Watching as my own children met the coaches that shaped me and played in the gym that gave me endless opportunities were nothing short of amazing.


“Larissa runs her program like a family, and for that, we are all grateful. We will stay committed to being involved and giving back to Iowa gymnastics.”

Past, present, and future GymHawks all got in on the excitement by trying out the beam, bar, vault, and pits in the new space.

“They couldn’t believe how big the facility is and that there was a pit off of every event,” said Libby. “That was the main thing everyone noticed because it wasn’t something we had before. We were just making miracles everyday with what little we had. Everyone was saying, `man what I could have done in this facility.’ That was the common theme.”

Previous generations of GymHawks could not resist returning to their favorite event to showcase their skills, while teaching the current team a few things in the process.

“They got with my [current] team and did some pre-meet rituals together, which was hilarious to watch,” said Libby. “I always tell my team, you can’t move forward without knowing where you come from. So for them to have that look into the past and to be able to see how successful the former athletes are now, how happy they are with their experience at Iowa, and how much their time at Iowa meant to them; it took on a whole new meaning for our team.”

The weekend provided opportunities for graduated student-athletes to reflect on the hard-earned past that inspired their successful future.

“It is that big picture that comes into play after all the hard work put in seven days a week, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day,” said Libby. “It just takes one kid coming back saying, `thank you for making me who I am’ to make it all worth it. The whole thing was very exciting, from announcements of engagements, to the news of new babies, to memorializing the wife of a former men’s gymnast.

“We had the whole circle of life going through that gym. It was just amazing. I hope it grows bigger and bigger every year because I want to be able to see more of them.”

One premise rang true all weekend — once a GymHawk, always a GymHawk.

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