Iowa gymnastics teams end busy Saturday with a win and a loss

The women’s team won against No. 19 Illinois at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and the men’s team fell at No. 2 Michigan.


Ayrton Breckenridge

Iowa all-around Bennet Huang performs on the rings on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2022 during the Iowa vs. Penn State men’s gymnastics meet at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa defeated Penn State 398.850-393.550. Huang placed seventh overall on the rings with a final score of 12.700.

Hunter Moeller , Sports Reporter

Iowa men’s and women’s gymnastics took the floor on Saturday, and the No. 17 Iowa women’s team picked up a victory while celebrating its senior day at Carver-Hawkeye Arena against No. 19 Illinois. On the road, the No. 7 Iowa men’s team fell at No. 2 Michigan.

The GymHawks spent their Saturday afternoon beating Illinois for the second time this season, 196.450-196.225. During the competition, the team honored senior gymnasts Clair Kaji, Erin Castle, and Emma Hartzler.

The Big Ten regular-season champs took care of business, winning three of the four events. Two gymnasts tied their career-best. Freshman Adeline Kenlin, sophomore JerQuavia Henderson, and senior Clair Kaji all placed first.

Although the GymHawks won the match-up, athletes afterward said they know they can do better.

“We started off really strong,” Kaji said. “We’ve struggled these past couple of meets, and we’re not really sure why, but we do have long talks with the team, with coaches, to try to fix this, so it doesn’t carry on into the future of our year. Today we got a 196.4, which is a 196, but I know there is so much more that we can give.”

The GymHawks, who are second on vault in the Big Ten, finished in the top two spots. Henderson won the event with a 9.875. Kenlin finished second with a 9.825. Juniors Bridget Killian and Lauren Guerin both finished with 9.800. Carina Tolan and Alex Greenwald also both scored a 9.750.

Bars was the only event where the GymHawks didn’t finish in the top spot. Kenlin led the No. 4 bar team in the Big Ten with a second-place finish, scoring a 9.875. Kaji followed with a 9.800. Junior Alex Greenwald scored a 9.775. Sophomore Allyson Steffensmeier posted a 9.750. Hartzler scored a 9.875 in her exhibition routine.

Iowa found itself in the top two spots at the end of the third rotation on beam. Kenlin found herself in the top two for the second time, but this time took the crown. Kaji finished second with a 9.900, and freshman Aubrey Nick posted a 9.825.

The GymHawks sealed their victory with their performance on the floor. The No. 2 floor team in the nation and the No. 1 in the Big Ten did not disappoint. Kaji and Henderson both scored a 9.925, good enough for a share of first place. Kaji tied her career-best in her final floor routine inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Guerin finished second with a 9.900, and Greenwald scored a 9.875.

Henderson is the only GymHawk to participate in all-around this season. The Illinois native is ranked fifth in the Big Ten. Henderson finished second with a 38.600.

As the season continues, the stakes continue to rise. Iowa head women’s gymnastics coach Larissa Libby says the team must learn to be champions and hold onto that mindset.

“I think in the past two meets I did not step in early enough because they have handled themselves,” Libby said. “You always want to give your team a chance to handle things on their own, but as every weekend goes by, the stakes go up. Now you are Big Ten Champions. You are now undefeated plus one. You have now beaten Illinois twice, once home and once away. They must learn, and we must teach them how to be champions. We must be able to take the lead and hold it because we deserve to.”

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The men’s team fell, 402.650-398.650, at Michigan. The loss is the first of the season for the Hawkeyes.

In its final season because of financial implications caused by COVID-19, the men’s team had a chance to take the lead in the Big Ten standings with a win.

“We needed to outperform Michigan, and while we were capable, we did not,” Iowa head men’s gymnastics coach JD Reive said in a release. “There were certainly some standout individual performances, but it’s the team win we were after. It’s a disappointing loss.”

On floor, Bennet Huang posted a season-high and took the victory with a 14.500. Evan Davis also scored a season-high with a 14.100, good enough for fourth place. Kulani Taylor scored a career-best of 13.900, placing him sixth.

Huang found himself in the top two spots again on pommel horse with a second-place finish and a season-high of 14.250. Drew Helberg scored a 12.850, finishing fifth. Davis and Carter Tope both tied for sixth with a 12.500.

Peyton Hobson led the way for Iowa on rings. He finished third overall with a career-best 13.750. Davis finished fourth with a 13.350. Huang and James Friedman both tied for sixth with a 12.950.

Vault was the best event for the Hawkeyes on Saturday and arguably the best of the season so far. Stewart Brown finished with the crown after posting a career-best 14.650. Huang finished second with a career-best 14.600. Tope continued the streak of career-best with a 14.400, giving him third. Amari Sewell tied for fourth with a 14.350.

Huang led the way for the Hawkeyes on parallel bars with a third-place finish and a score of 13.450. Brown and Tope both tied for fifth with 13.300. Hobson tied his career-high with 12.650.

Davis was the leading man for Iowa on high bar with a score of 13.350 and a third-place finish. Huang and Alex Walther both tied for seventh, posting a 12.900.

Although the team didn’t get the victory, athletes said post-matchup that they’re looking ahead to the next routine.

“Obviously, it was a bit disappointing to not come out with a win,” Huang said in a release “But I think we are a strong team to contend with. I believe that it’s important that our team remains confident in each of their own routines but also strive for some better consistency in the gym.”

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