Aug. 5, 2013
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.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa men's gymnastics team completed its most successful season in nearly a decade under third-year head coach JD Reive in 2013, led by a talented group of seniors, including Javier Balboa.
The Hawkeyes finished fifth nationally, marking the program's best finish since 2000, and finished with three All-America honors, the most since 2005. The fifth-place finish marked the third-best of any Big Ten school in 2013.
"It was unbelievable," said Balboa. "After the last routine on the first day of NCAAs, we realized we advanced to the second day and our goal from the beginning of the season was accomplished. Finishing fifth place was great."
Balboa accounted for two of Iowa's three All-America honors. The senior became Iowa's first all-around All-American since 2005 and the first to earn All-America honors in multiple events (all-around, rings) since Michael Reavis in 2005. The Monterrey, Mexico, native placed sixth in the all-around and eighth on the still rings at the NCAA Championships.
"It was very special, especially because all-around was my main goal," said Balboa. "All-around was what I had done my whole life, and I was very focused. The last event was pommel horse; when I landed I was so happy -- I had finally made All-American. I celebrated within myself and my teammates found out and came and celebrated with me. That combined with a fifth-place team finish was awesome."
The 2013 Big Ten still rings champion and first team All-Big Ten honoree was named Iowa's Dick Holzaepfel Most Valuable Gymnast in 2012.
His success carried over into the classroom as well. A three-time Dean's List student, a two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree and a two-time UI President's Committee on Athletics medallion winner, Balboa was honored by the Big Ten Conference with the Distinguished Scholar Award (3.7 GPA or higher) in July.
"It has been a special journey. You can see the progress and the evolution (of the program) from year-to-year."
Balboa, who graduated with a degree in economics, was named a recipient of the Big Ten Conference's inaugural postgraduate scholarship -- one of two conference gymnasts -- and was also Iowa's 2013 male Big Ten Medal of Honor winner.
Balboa's success, in gymnastics venues and in the classroom, is a prime example of the direction the program is headed under Reive.
"Over the course of his senior year Javier Balboa embodied the program's transformation," said Reive. "His success at Iowa was a significant catalyst in the positive change to the mentality of my team. He made our theoretical opportunity real by achieving Big Ten champion and NCAA All-America status during his senior season and leading the Hawkeyes to the NCAA team finals for the first time in many years.
"More importantly, he was a true student-athlete. As the most accomplished student on our team, Javier balanced his Iowa career the way I expect all my student-athletes to. By doing so, he set a new bar for future generations of Hawkeye gymnasts -- one that Javier gladly acknowledges they are quite motivated to break."
"It has been a special journey," said Balboa. "You can see the progress and the evolution (of the program) from year-to-year."