GymHawks set to face Minnesota at home

The Iowa women’s gymnastics team returns to Carver-Hawkeye Arena to play host to Minnesota on Saturday.


Hannah Kinson

Iowa’s Clair Kaji performs on the beam during a gymnastics meet against Ohio State on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021 at Carver Hawkeye arena. The Hawkeyes defeated the Buckeyes with a score, 196.550-193.800. Kaji earned a score of 9.875.

Hunter Moeller, Sports Reporter

The No. 10 Iowa women’s gymnastics team is set to face No. 11 Minnesota for the second time in 2020-21 this Saturday at 3 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

In the last meeting between the two programs on Jan. 15, the GymHawks fell to the Golden Gophers 196.450-197.025.

Since the loss to Minnesota, the Hawkeyes have been nothing short of amazing, reaching a program-best No. 9 national rank. In their past two competitions, the GymHawks have picked up wins against Ohio State, 196.550-193.800, and Illinois, 196.325-195.600.

This competition marks the second road trip of the season for Minnesota. The Golden Gophers are coming off a home victory against Penn State.

Minnesota currently ranks sixth in vault, seventh in beam, 19th in bars, and 23rd on floor.

“[Minnesota] has a really great team and getting a win against a Big Ten opponent is always fun, but we also know that we’re competing against everyone, even ourselves,” senior Clair Kaji said. “We have three 196s behind us, and that drives us to focus on the details and continue to push forward. Minnesota being that meticulous team, we have to have that competitive edge to beat them out, but it’s also a home meet, so we want to defend our home.”

Kaji is just one of the GymHawks who has had a very successful season thus far. This week marks the second consecutive week that Kaji has been named Big Ten Specialist of the Week.

Winning floor and finishing second on both beam and bars against Illinois was enough to earn the Vancouver native the honor. She currently has a 9.917 average on floor, good enough to tie her for fifth overall nationally and No. 1 in the Big Ten.

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Iowa has accumulated accolades in each of the first three weeks of the season, including all three Big Ten Specialist of the Week awards. Junior Lauren Guerin was honored Jan. 18 while Kaji received the award on Jan. 25. Freshman Adeline Kenlin was also awarded Freshman of the Week on Jan. 25.

Additionally, the GymHawks also saw their first participant take flight in all-around last week in the form of sophomore JerQuavia Henderson. She posted a 39.325, good for No. 5 in the Big Ten and 14th nationally.

As a team, the GymHawks 196.442 scoring average ranks them as the 10th overall team in the nation – second in the Big Ten to only No. 7 Michigan.

Currently, the Hawkeyes rank fifth in the nation – No. 1 in the Big Ten – on floor with a 49.317 average, eighth on beam – No. 2 in the Big Ten – with a 49.083 average, 12th on bars (49.100), and 18th on vault (49.942).

The Hawkeyes have shared or won 10 individual events in their first three meets. Kaji has three wins, Guerin and Kenlin have two, junior Alex Greenwald, senior Emma Hartzler, and Henderson each have one.

Although this matchup is a rematch between the two teams and will be televised to a national audience on ESPNU, head coach Larissa Libby stresses that she wants her team to focus on itself.

“I stress to them to not worry about who comes into the gym,” Libby said. “We need to not beat ourselves. We need to make sure that we do the things that make us the best and not about who comes into the gym. When we do that, we’re guaranteed to mess up. That’s a mistake we have made in the past. While we acknowledge that Minnesota is an incredible team — one of the best in the conference and among the best in the nation, right now — we need to focus on the things that we can fix.”