Iowa excited to host Big Ten Gymnastics Championships at Xtream Arena for first time

The meet will take place on March 18, with the GymHawks competing at 4:30 p.m.


Shuntaro Kawasaki

Allison Zuhlke competes on beam during a gymnastics meet between No. 17 Iowa and No. 12 Michigan State at the Xtream Arena on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2022. Zuhlke scored 9.050 in this event. The Hawkeyes defeated the Spartans 196.150-195.725.

Jami Martin-Trainor, Assistant Digital Editor

After months of training and preparation, the Iowa gymnastics team is inching closer to the Big Ten Championships. For the first time, the competition will be held at Xtream Arena in Coralville.

The championship is taking place on March 18. Penn State, Rutgers, Minnesota, Nebraska, Maryland, and Illinois will be competing in the first session, while Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State will be competing in the evening session. The seeding is based on current standings, and times are subject to change, according to the Big Ten website.

Both sessions will be available on Big Ten Network and the FOX Sports app.

Last year, the championships took place in Columbus at the Covelli Center. The Hawkeyes placed third in Ohio, with Michigan and Michigan State placing first and second, respectively.

RELATED: Iowa women’s gymnastics places third at Big Ten Championships

The Hawkeyes took to Xtream Arena for the first time this season in early February, when Iowa beat then-No. 12 Michigan State, 196.150-195.725.

While head coach Larissa Libby said she wasn’t thrilled with the team’s score after the meet, she hopes the Hawkeyes can learn from their original mistakes.

“I think that the adjustment was a little more than we thought it was going to be,” Libby said. “It was a good dry run for the Big Ten Championship, and you just have to hope that if you messed up today, you never mess it up again.”

Libby said the proximity of fans and size of the stadium help the team’s energy. She also mentioned that schools are only able to host the competition every eight to 10 years, so she hopes the team makes the most of it.

“We want our fans to be closer,” Libby said. “That’s why we’re trying to switch to this venue to see if we can get our fans to connect more with our student-athletes in gymnastics.”

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

The Hawkeyes have been working toward this competition since the beginning of the season. While Libby emphasized comparative score is not the end-all-be-all, she thinks her team has a chance at taking home the title.

“I’m excited for them,” Libby said. “If they put everything together and just do what they know, I think they have just as good a shot as anybody else.”

As a whole, the GymHawks are looking forward to hosting the championships. Allison Zuhlke, a junior who transferred from Towson University, said she notices a difference when the Hawkeyes have a home crowd.

“They’re starting chants for us, and we’re going along with it. It’s just so much fun,” Zuhlke said.

Freshman Hanna Castillo said she is excited for her first conference championships.

“I feel like it’s just going to be a really exciting moment for all of us,” Castillo said. “Especially as freshmen coming in, this is really different for us.”

Castillo also said having a strong local crowd helps keep the energy high throughout the day. With several rounds of competition slated for the Big Ten Championships, mindset is an essential component to success.

“It really helps our team’s spirit, and it helps us build momentum from event to event,” Castillo said. “It just makes it all-around a great experience.”

Emma Sachs contributed to this report.