Jan. 25, 2016
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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 — For University of Iowa gymnast Johanny Sotillo,the chance to compete in front of the Hawkeye faithful has been a long, difficult journey that began at the 2011 World Championships.
“I applied to Louisiana State University and they had all of my paperwork, they were just waiting on some test results,” said Sotillo. “At that time I went to World Championships and met the Iowa coaches. After talking to them I decided Iowa would be a better fit.”
After making the decision to leave Venezuela to attend the UI, Sotillo had to sit out her first year.
“My first year was hard because I wasn’t allowed on the floor; I had to watch from the stands,” said Sotillo. “Getting used to a new team and not being on the floor is rough. But the girls were so welcoming and the staff was so nice that I couldn’t resist.”
Sotillo was faced with another obstacle the following season when she was sidelined with an injury.
“She had to sit out a year and the first year she could compete she got injured,” said UI head coach Larissa Libby. “She was out for that season so she only had one year. She made the most of that year, and we had the opportunity to bring her back.
“Before she got hurt, the only thing she wanted to do was compete for this team. When she finally got the opportunity to compete, she was stellar. You can see it when she competes. The reason I brought her back is because she loves gymnastics and you can see it.”
Sotillo made her debut for the GymHawks in 2015, where she competed in every meet on bars and beam. The Valencia, Venezuela, native helped the team to a season-high score of 196.500 at the Big Ten Championships on March 21 — the team’s best championship team result since 2010. Sotillo also helped the GymHawks to their seventh postseason berth in the last eight years at the NCAA Auburn Regional.
“Something she has talked to our team a lot about is never wasting an opportunity,” said Libby. “She reflects that. When she is swinging on bars, she is smiling. When she is in the middle of her beam routine, she is smiling, because every opportunity that she gets to continue with the sport, she holds on with everything she has. I love that about her. I will miss her dearly when she is done with this team. I wish I could find another way to keep her.”
This season, Sotillo has earned six top-five finishes and collected an event title on bars and beam. The senior helped lead the GymHawks to their first win at Michigan State since 2011 and their first win over No. 25 Ohio State since 2010.
“My time at Iowa has been incredible,” said Sotillo. “I wouldn’t change this experience for the world.”
Sotillo and the GymHawks return to action on Jan. 31 when they travel to College Park, Maryland, for a Big Ten matchup at Maryland. The meet is set to begin at 1 p.m. (CT) inside XFINITY Center Pavilion.