April 1, 2013
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa women's gymnastics team created an acronym during the preseason that has carried its members through the 2013 season. The acronym is U.N.I.D.D., which stands for unstoppable, noticeable, intensity, discipline and destroy.
Despite a disappointing eighth place finish at the Big Ten Championships, the GymHawks were one of just 36 teams selected to compete at the NCAA Regional Championships. Iowa will join No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 11 Stanford, No. 14 Penn State, No. 22 Washington and Southern Utah in the Norman, Okla., Regional. Most importantly, the GymHawks have another shot to rekindle their spark and prove their capability.
"With any sport, there are going to be highs and lows," said senior Emma Stevenson. "You can't just stay together when things are great. You have to stay together when it's not so great, too. While we're disappointed with our performance at Big Ten's, we're still just as unified. We're still behind each other, and that one meet isn't going to count us out of the running.
"We're still unstoppable, we're still intense, we're still determined to destroy, and we're staying disciplined. We have good, noticeable skills, and now we need to show why we deserve to be at regionals and to qualify for nationals."
"We're keeping everything status quo going into regionals," said head coach Larissa Libby. "At Big Ten's, our weaknesses were exposed. Mistakes happen, and it's unfortunate that it all happened at once, but the bigger disappointment was that we looked so scattered, and that was detrimental.
"They have to figure out how to get their magic back, but it's not fairy dust. It's unity. It's what they created, and they forgot. We're sticking to the same plan we always have throughout the year. We're working on the details, and staying completely focused on ourselves and that's it."
The GymHawks have proven to succeed, when unified, despite tremendous adversity. Sophomore Jessica Morreale tore her anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus just two weeks after scoring a career-best beam score (9.875), capturing the title against Michigan State and Illinois-Chicago.
Senior Kaitlynn Urano suffered a broken tibia and fibula the day before senior night against Iowa State, but the team rallied to down the Cyclones, 196.375-194.575, and clinch the Cy-Hawk Series. Without Urano on three events (bars, beam and floor), the GymHawks earned their season-best score, along with individual titles on vault, bars, floor and in the all-around.
"The way the team reacted to the devastation was the best moment in Iowa gymnastics history," said Libby. "Was it the highest score ever? No, but it is the greatest example of what they are. That acronym came into play at the most important time. With the in-state rival in town and so many things riding on one night, I don't think they could have done it if they hadn't pulled that close together. That moment showed them that the mentality of what you do is far more important than the physicality."
That type of mentality is crucial in postseason. The skills have been mastered, and the routines remain the same. To attain utmost success, every GymHawk must show confidence and camaraderie. Although Urano cannot compete, she remains a key contributor and team leader.
"I think Kaitlynn feels like she still has unfinished business," said Libby. "If she can't do it physically, she's going to get it done somehow. As far as her voice and leadership is concerned, nothing has changed. I know she has goals to accomplish in her senior year, and with or without her on the competition floor, she wants to see it happen."
"I try to stay positive and build up the other girls on the team," said Urano. "I make sure they're staying united and reaching team goals. I want them to believe that we are capable of winning, doing well at regionals and qualifying to nationals."
In preparation for the Norman Regional, the GymHawks focus on final touches and staying unified. For senior Maya Wickus, that means leaving everything on the floor.
"The focus for me is no regrets," said Wickus."I'm coming into the gym, pushing hard, and helping the team reach our goal. We're focusing on details and going after everything. In the end, this is a team sport and we need every aspect of the team to be a part of it in order to succeed at the highest level. We're supporting each other and uplifting each other, so we're ready to put it all out there once we get to Norman."