No. 18 Iowa women’s gymnastics continues win streak against Rutgers

The Hawkeyes defeated the Scarlet Knights, 196.200-195.125, Saturday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.


Ayrton Breckenridge

Members of the Iowa gymnastics team cheer on JerQuavia Henderson as Henderson competes on floor during a gymnastics meet between No. 18 Iowa and Rutgers at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023. Henderson placed first in the event with a score of 9.925. The Hawkeyes defeated the Scarlet Knights 196.200-195.125.

Emma Sachs, Sports Reporter

The No. 18 Iowa women’s gymnastics team defeated Rutgers 196.200-195.125, Saturday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Nearly 3,000 fans were in attendance to celebrate  70’s Night and Kids Night. 

The Hawkeyes led the Scarlet Knights after every rotation and senior JerQuavia Henderson captured individual titles in the vault and floor events. 

During the vault, Henderson tried something she had never done before — and she pulled it off. 

Henderson debuts routine

Iowa took the lead during the first rotation on vault with Rutgers on uneven bars. Henderson held the anchor position in the lineup and debuted a new vault to tie her career-high score of 9.925. 

Her new vault, a Yurchenko 1 ½, adds an extra half twist to her previous vault, earning her a higher start value for the increased difficulty. The Peoria, Illinois, native is the first Hawkeye to perform the skill in competition. 

“She has had that talent for a long time,” Iowa head coach Larissa Libby said of Henderson after the meet. “She is really coming into herself this year.”

Libby credited Henderson’s hard work this season, especially mentally, for her success. She said Henderson’s new start value in the vault will make a large difference during the postseason.

“She has specific goals and she has to train weights and then come over with us at 7:30 in the morning because of her class schedule,” Libby said. “In order to keep her hungry and on the right track, we have to start letting her do those bigger things.”  

RELATED: Iowa women’s gymnastics senior JerQuavia Henderson discusses identity beyond gymnastics

Going into the second rotation, Iowa led Rutgers by 0.250 points and the Hawkeyes continued to pull away after the third event, leading by almost a full point.

Despite their lead, Libby said the Hawkeyes made a few mistakes on both uneven bars and beam. 

It was a little frustrating, and we weren’t very sharp in some places, but in other places, we were really good,” Libby said. “I feel the overall score didn’t really reflect what we did, and that goes for both teams.”

Even with the difficulties the GymHawks faced, they remained positive. The gymnasts continually started chants and kept the audience engaged.

“That’s what they’re best at,” Libby said. “They’re really good at keeping each other light and driving the environment,” said Libby.

RELATED: Iowa women’s gymnastics upsets Michigan State at Xtream Arena 

Getting the crowd warmed up

Before the final event, the Hawkeyes hosted a brief 70’s music dance party to add to the 70’s theme of the night and get the crowd excited. Once the Hawkeys began on floor, Iowa led the crowd in cheers to encourage its competing teammates.

Libby praised her team’s ability to interact with the fans, recounting when the stands were empty, the Hawkeyes had to be their own crowd. 

“They had to learn and they taught themselves to be the hype for each other,” Libby said. “And now that they actually have an audience here, they’re so clutch at that,” said“That’s my favorite part of this team.”

Trailing Iowa, 146.900-146.375, the Scarlet Knights put up a fight on beam during the night’s final rotation. Rutgers senior Hannah Joyner and junior Stephanie Zaneella both put up scores above 9.925.

Henderson ended the meet with a 9.925 on floor, earning her second individual title of the night. Henderson was awarded Iowa’s MVP of the meet.

Henderson now has eight individual titles on the season. 

“She’s just so good. There’s not a lot you could do to make her better,” Libby said. “I wanted her to have the shot to do something for herself, for her to know that, ‘I trained this, I can do this.’ And to put it out here and do it as well as she did. So, so proud of her.”

Up next

The GymHawks travel to Lincoln, Nebraska, for the Big Five meet on Feb. 24. Iowa finished fourth in the event last season, posting a 196.225.