Feb. 24, 2014
Editor's note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Monday, Aug. 6, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2013-14 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.
By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Sydney Hoerr didn't leave a stone unturned before making her college choice, and all signs led her to the University of Iowa women's gymnastics program.
"I was looking at a lot of Big Ten schools and some schools outside of the Big Ten," said Hoerr, a junior from Bloomington, Ill. "Iowa was one of my first choices, but I felt the need to venture out and go to all the schools to make sure Iowa was the right choice for me."
In a day when recruits are committing earlier and earlier, UI head coach Larissa Libby commended Hoerr on doing her due diligence to ensure she was making the right college choice.
"Recruiting is going so fast right now and younger and younger," said Libby. "I am not sure everyone gets the opportunity to do what Sydney did, which was to make sure she went everywhere she wanted to see and make sure this was the place that was best for her -- academically, athletically, for her future and where she would be treated the best.
"I think Sydney did the right thing by herself, not by us. It was hard for us, but she can truly say she made the choice of the best place for her."
It was a decision that came down to coaching and academics.
"I chose Iowa because of Larissa," Hoerr said. "She's a great coach, has a heart of gold and a great personality, and was one of the key factors in me coming here. The academics here are phenomenal, which is big for me. I am here for athletics, but am graduating with a degree."
Gymnastics has been at the center of Hoerr's life for 14 years. She started at the age of 6 1/2 or 7-years-old after being introduced to the sport by her mother, Brenda.
"My mom always wanted to participate in gymnastics, but where she was from they only had cheerleading, and she was involved in that," said Hoerr. "She always had a dream of competing in gymnastics, and when we were old enough, she put my sister and me in it."
Hoerr was a highly-successful junior gymnast, being a two-time Junior Olympic National Qualifier, finishing seventh on the bars in 2009. She also placed third in the all-around at the 2010 Region V Championships and first on the bars and second on the floor and all-around at the 2009 Region V Championships.
When it came to making the transition to the Division I level, Hoerr says it was more about changing her focus than the actual competition.
"The team atmosphere is something you're not used to going from the club level to college," she said. "In club, it's all about you; you don't have the team atmosphere. Transitioning into that was difficult, seeing the big picture that it isn't just about you, it's about the whole team."
Hoerr contributed as a freshman, competing in every meet on the floor exercise, scoring a career-high 9.850 points against Penn State. Her role increased as a sophomore, performing in the all-around in 10 meets, which included an all-around title in the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series triumph over Iowa State with a career-best and team season-high score of 39.400.
She also posted a career-best score of 9.925 on the uneven bars in a meet at Southern Utah, a mark that ranks third in program history.
Now in her junior season, Hoerr's role has evolved. She is 1-of-3 upperclassmen on a roster that includes 11 freshmen and sophomores, and no seniors. Hoerr has taken on a bigger role, but in the process, Libby fears Hoerr is trying to do too much.
"The thing this year that is showing up, that I don't want for her, is how hard she is on herself," said Libby. "With our young team, she is taking the weight of the world on her shoulders, and expecting that she can do it all. She can't, no one person can.
"When she lets that go and things start to turn around for her, you're going to see a tremendous version of what Sydney Hoerr can be."
Hoerr has had an up-and-down start to the 2013-14 season. She was named to the Big Ten Watch List in the preseason, and posted team-high scores of 9.875 on the uneven bars and floor at Georgia, but her consistency hasn't been there.
"I have always been that type of athlete," said Hoerr. "I struggle here and there at the beginning of the season and then kick it up a notch when it matters at the Big Ten Championships and NCAA Regionals. The key is how I work."
Libby says Hoerr always has a plan and doesn't alter herself when carrying it out.
"She knows what she wants and has a plan in how she is going to go after that and is very focused and determined," said Libby. "Her character has never changed and that is the thing I admire the most about her is that she never waivers on who she is."
Libby says Hoerr embodies what she wants in an Iowa gymnast both in a competitive setting and in representing the program.
"In the expectations in how we want to appear, not only on the competition floor, but outside in the community, within the elementary schools we're working with, within the young gym clubs, Sydney epitomizes everything you want as far as putting your image out there for the GymHawks," said Libby.
That shouldn't come as a surprise for a student-athlete that ensured the University of Iowa was her perfect fit.