Aug. 30, 2007
Editor's note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Thursday, Aug. 2, 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 2007-08 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 Sean Neugent
IOWA CITY -- Kara Pinjuv has all the motivation she needs after fracturing a bone in her wrist that forced her to miss her entire freshman gymnastics season. The University of Iowa junior bounced back in strapping form a year ago when she was named to the all-Big Ten second team and qualified for an NCAA regional appearance.
Pinjuv was recruited out of Bishop Manogue High School in Reno, Nev., and is a pre-medicine major at the UI. She finished third on bars and seventh on floor at the 2004 nationals competition and placed third all-around at 2004 regionals. At the 2004 Nevada state meet, Pinjuv finished second all-around. Iowa head coach Larissa Libby was awed the minute she met Pinjuv.
"Kara is a good student who comes from a fantastic family background," Libby said. "She had a well-known gymnastics background. When I met her I was instantly charmed by her personality -- she is well spoken, independent and extremely determined. She strives to be the best at everything she does and she very rarely settles for being second best."
When it was time to select a college, Pinjuv had no reservations heading to the Midwest. There was a level of enthusiasm at the UI that she didn't see anywhere else.
"I really liked the team and the coaches as well as the spirit of Iowa City and the Hawkeyes fans," Pinjuv said. "I didn't really see that (in the schools) out west. It was exciting to go to a football game and see how everyone got excited for the Hawks."
"It was really frustrating because I never sat on the sidelines before. It was really hard because I felt that I had something to contribute but being out, I was not able to do that. It did give me a lot of motivation because it made me appreciate gymnastics and not take it for granted. When I was able to get back in the gym, I realized how much I liked it and how much I missed it."
UI gymnast Kara Pinjuv
Pinjuv's comeback amazed Libby as she racked up the awards last season. Not only did she get the second team all-Big Ten award and advance to regionals, but she also won the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award, was named Academic All-Big Ten, and was a letterwinner.
"Kara spent six to seven months in a cast, but she continued to train as much as she could during that time," Libby said. "Her sophomore year she ended up being third in the conference and qualifying for regional championships. For us, that's the first stage to NCAA championships which is a huge deal. Gymnastics is based on consistency and the more opportunities you get to compete, the better you will be. Having sat out the entire year was a pretty phenomenal comeback. She has come a long way."
The wait-and-recovery period was at times a difficult adjustment for Pinjuv.
"It was really frustrating because I never sat on the sidelines before," Pinjuv said. " It was really hard because I felt that I had something to contribute but being out, I was not able to do that. It did give me a lot of motivation because it made me appreciate gymnastics and not take it for granted. When I was able to get back in the gym, I realized how much I liked it and how much I missed it."
Pinjuv, an all-around gymnast, competes in each event. Those events include vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise. Last season, Pinjuv's bests (out of 10) were 9.85 in the vault, 9.8 on the uneven bars, 9.8 on the balance beam and 9.875 in the floor exercise for a total of 39.2 all-around.
"She is pretty even now on every event," Libby said. "I wouldn't say she has one event that is stronger than the other. When she got here she was certainly better at some events than others. She is a very strong, all-around gymnast. She has worked extremely hard to make sure that all four of her events are equally as strong."
Last season the Hawkeyes compiled a record of 8-11 overall, 1-3 in the Big Ten Conference.