GymHawks fall in close battle to No. 8 Michigan

Despite several impressive individual marks, Iowa women’s gymnastics came up short against the Wolverines at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.


Hannah Kinson

Iowa’s Clair Kaji performs on the beam during a gymnastics meet between Iowa and Michigan at Carver Hawkeye Arena on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. The GymHawks were defeated by the Wolverines with a score, 195.975-196.800. Kaji earned a score of 9.850.

Cassandra Buchholz, Sports Reporter

The Iowa women’s gymnastics team competed in a nail-biter dual meet against Big Ten opponent Michigan on Feb. 14 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

The Hawkeyes fell to the No. 8 Wolverines, 195.975-196.800, in a tough, individually based matchup that resulted in three Hawkeye personal bests.

Noting the struggle from previous competition, the Hawkeyes shined on bars against Michigan. They tallied a team 49.000 on the event — the team’s second-best of the season, only trailing the 49.075 score against Maryland last month.

Sophomore Carina Tolan earned a personal best in the event. The Tinley Park, Illinois, native recorded a 9.800 on the event, tying for sixth in the event overall with teammate Clair Kaji and just behind freshman Allyson Steffensmeier with a 9.875.

Along with Tolan’s best, sophomore Mackenzie Vance earned a personal best on the uneven bars, carding a 9.775 for the Hawkeyes. Junior Erin Castle also recorded her career high on the balance beam with a tallied 9.800.

RELATED: Iowa women’s gymnastics prepares athletes for post-collegiate life

Head coach Larissa Libby said she sees her team’s work and noted where the improvements have been so far this season.

“It’s great to see hard work get rewarded,” Libby said. “The three that scored career bests are in the gym working their tails off every single day. Carina came to Iowa and didn’t even do swinging bars. It just shows how hard she works.”

Castle finished third for Iowa on beam, falling behind senior Clair Kaji (9.850) and freshman Dani Castillo (9.825), but showing progress with the score jump from her previous 9.775 on the event against Minnesota last week.

The Hawkeyes started the night strong on vault, carding a team 48.875 led by sophomore Lauren Guerin (9.825). Iowa recorded a three-way tie with Allyson Steffensmeier, Ariana Agrapides, and Bridget Killian all earning a 9.775 on the opening event.

Dominant on the floor, Guerin tied for second against Michigan — recording a 9.875 and leading for Iowa in the event. Sophomore Allie Gilchrist followed, earning her season-high of the year with a 9.825 for her floor routine.

And even with the tough loss for Iowa, Libby knows that the crowd in Carver-Hawkeye Arena will always be loud and proud, especially on the ‘80s theme night.

“The atmosphere was amazing,” Libby said. “It was great to see the number of people dress up today. It just goes to show that the work that went into planning was totally worth it. A huge thank you to Hawkeye Nation. They were loud when we needed them to be.”

The Hawkeyes head out to Toledo, Ohio, for the annual Big Ten’s “Big Five” competition on Friday.

Iowa will compete against four other Big Ten schools. The two-day meet competition is used to determine the seeding at the Big Ten Women’s Gymnastics Championships hosted by Ohio State on March 21.