Iowa women’s gymnastics set for home meet against Nebraska

The No. 17 GymHawks will attempt to go 2-0 in the Big Ten as they take on No. 43 Nebraska on Saturday.


Ayrton Breckenridge

Iowa’s Marissa Rojas hugs teammate Clair Kaji after competing on beam during a gymnastics meet between No. 18 Iowa and Eastern Michigan at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022. The Hawkeyes defeated the Eagles 195.950-194.100.

Grant Hall, Sports Reporter

Iowa women’s gymnastics will host Nebraska Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

The Hawkeyes enter the dual fresh off a 196.475-196.350 victory over No. 15 Michigan State.

Freshman Marissa Rojas played a big role in the Hawkeyes’ win over the Spartans on Jan. 22. In her collegiate debut, Rojas delivered a team-leading 9.925 score on beam.

Rojas’ efforts were recognized on Tuesday, as she was named Big Ten Conference Freshman of the Week.

“We were all just so excited,” senior Clair Kaji said of Rojas’ performance. “Michigan State was a meet with a lot of switching roles, and Marissa was an absolute rockstar. She got up there and did what she does every single day in practice. She won the meet for us.

“We thought she should’ve been Big Ten Gymnast of the Week too,” Kaji added. “But we’ll take freshman of the week for now.”

Rojas, and her ability to handle high-pressure situations, also caught the eye of senior Lauren Guerin.

“[It was] absolutely clutch,” Guerin said of Rojas’ beam routine. “That’s hard to do as a freshman … I’m not sure if she felt the pressure, but the pressure was definitely there, and she rose to the occasion.”

While last week’s Iowa-Michigan State meet was quite dramatic, the Hawkeyes have already put it behind them. Iowa is squarely focused on preparing for its dual with Nebraska on Saturday.

RELATED: Iowa women’s gymnastics beats Michigan State

“We’re just trying to focus on the little details this week,” Guerin said. “We were happy with our score last week, but we know that we can do better. So, we’ve just been pushing each other to get those higher scores.

With four meets and plenty of practices now in the books, the Hawkeyes are starting to build up great team chemistry, which could help them surpass their season-high score of 196.475.

“It’s very helpful that we’ve had this many meets under our belt because it allows us to figure out everyone’s roles,” Kaji said. It doesn’t matter who we’re competing against because, at the end of the day, we’re trying to compete to be the best version of ourselves.”

Kaji is a sixth-year senior, and this season is Guerin’s fourth at Iowa. With COVID-19 forcing a number of sports events to be canceled over the last two years, Guerin and Kaji are just thankful to be competing for the GymHawks this season.

“We’ve really been appreciating the fact that we get this opportunity to compete because there are a lot of teams that have had to cancel meets or even their entire season,” Guerin said.

Saturday’s dual is one of two home events that remain on the Hawkeyes’ schedule. Iowa’s final home meet of the year will pit it against Penn State at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 4

“Big Ten matchups are always exciting because you really want to get wins in-conference,” Kaji said. “I think, this weekend, we’re going to have a lot of excitement because this is a Big Ten rivalry for us.”

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