By: BRANDEE BRITT
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The 2017 Big Ten Women’s Gymnastics Championships will look a little different for the 16th-ranked GymHawks this season.
Instead of 5 a.m. wake up calls and a morning session without byes, the Hawkeyes will enjoy a spot in the evening session at the conference championships, which begin today in Piscataway, New Jersey, on the campus of Rutgers University.
“I’m looking forward to not waking up at 5 a.m. to compete in the morning,” said UI head coach Larissa Libby. “I’m excited to have breakfast at a normal time. You think I’m lying, but honestly, that’s what I’m looking forward to.
“For five years we’ve been having breakfast at 5 a.m. at the Big Ten Championships and I hate it. You are off your game a little bit. It will be more like what we always do this time around.”
The Hawkeyes qualified for the evening session of the Big Ten Championships with a second-place finish at the third annual Big Five Meet on March 11 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa recorded a total of 196.400. No. 11 Michigan won the event with a total of 197.150.
“To us, getting into the night session is a win,” said Libby. “You have to start by getting in the night session and showing that you are capable. We have not been able to do that in the past. We’ve competed well, but it has never been good enough to make that jump into the night session. I could not be more proud of the job that they did.”
Four GymHawks tallied six top-five finishes and two Hawkeyes earned event titles to highlight the competition.
Senior Mollie Drenth paced the Hawkeyes on beam with a score of 9.900 to tie for the event title. The victory marked the senior’s fourth title in the past two weeks. Drenth tied for first on beam (9.850), vault (9.875), and in the all-around (39.350) against Iowa State on March 4.
“It helps with confidence,” said Drenth. “I’ve been hitting my routines the last couple of weeks after a rough start this season. It’s boosting my confidence.”
For the second straight week, Angel Metcalf clinched the uneven bars title. In her last routine in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, the senior registered a career-high 9.950. It marked her third event title in the past two meets. She won the uneven bars (9.900) and tied for first on beam (9.850) against the Cyclones.
“It didn’t sink in that it was my last routine, because we have more competitions to go, but if I really think about it I don’t think I could have gone out a better way,” Metcalf said.
“Angel had a great meet,” said Libby. “She is probably doing some of the best gymnastics that she has done. It’s the most confident she has been.”
With two of its senior leaders competing with confidence and a spot in the night session secured, the Hawkeyes are ready to make a run at the Big Ten Title.
“We still have not fired on all cylinders yet,” Libby said. “We have not hit four events together, and I’m excited to see what they do in that moment.
“I’m looking forward to being on the floor for the first time at night to give our team a shot to show what they are capable of.”
The 2017 Big Ten Women’s Gymnastics Championships will be held Saturday at the Rutgers Athletic Center. BTN will provide live coverage of Session 1 at 11 a.m. (CT) and Session 2 at 4 p.m.