Dec. 30, 2015
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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. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
BY MEGAN ROWLEY
IOWA CITY, Iowa — With the annual Black and Gold Intrasquad in the books, the University of Iowa women’s gymnastics team has turned its attention to its season opener against top-ranked Michigan and Arkansas in Cancun, Mexico, on Jan. 2.
“We want to come out with a bang in Cancun,” said UI head coach Larissa Libby. “It is going to be difficult. Everything is stacked against us. The girls are coming off of finals, they go home for the holidays and then before you know it we are back.
“We leave for our first meet on Dec. 30, so you are looking at four days of real training before we compete. It is going to be difficult.”
With the season beginning a month earlier than it has in previous years, the Black and Gold Intrasquad competition became a crucial piece of the team’s opening-meet preparations.
“They have already competed once,” said Libby. “It was a real eye-opener for them. It helped them identify what they needed to do to prepare.
“It is difficult to go in front of an audience. You can try and prepare them for that every day but once that green flag goes up, it is very different.”
After competing in front of a crowd and identifying areas of weakness, the Hawkeyes were able to fine-tune their goals for the season.
“The idea is to come out with that 196-197 performance, but that can look different in different places,” said Libby. “We try to worry less about the actual score and focus our attention on the execution. We are working on details, which is where we finished the year last year. It is not going to be enough to just make the routine. It has to be done with perfection. It is going to be difficult the first time out, but that is the goal in mind.
“Long term, we want to be Big Ten champions, qualify to compete in the NCAA Regional Championship, which we are hosting, and then to move on to the NCAA Championship for the first time in years. These are lofty goals, but I don’t think they are out of the question.”
While nearly 40 percent of the roster is comprised of freshmen, the GymHawks haven’t had a problem building on the momentum established last season.
“The coolest thing about that class is that they are all in,” said Libby. “They have bought in to every philosophy and they always want to know what they can do to be better. They will do whatever it takes to make the team better. As a class, they have developed their own role and are the pushers. They are the ones showing everyone they are here, ready, willing, able, motivated, and hungry for success.
“They want the team to be the best. When you can see that from top down and your freshmen are right there with it, you have done something right. The culture is there and because the freshmen have meshed into it so well, they are ready to go this season.”
With both of Iowa’s Cancun Classic opponents finishing last season ranked in the top 25 (No. 6 Michigan and No. 19 Arkansas), the bar is set high for the tri-meet.
“It is going to be tough,” said Libby. “But there is nothing I love more than being an underdog. It is where my team sits the best. We love surprising people. Our goal is to compete and send people home thinking ‘We should probably not have underestimated them.'”