Iowa women’s gymnastics concludes season at NCAA Regionals

The Hawkeyes placed third in the Norman Regional with a score of 196.500, one spot away from qualifying for the next round.


Matt Sindt

Iowa’s Adeline Kenlin performs on the beam during session two of the Big Ten gymnastics championship at Xtreme Arena in Coralville, Iowa on Saturday, March 18, 2023. Michigan won the Big Ten women’s gymnastics title with a score of 198.000.

Emma Sachs, Sports Reporter

The No. 25 Iowa women’s gymnastics team’s season ended in the NCAA Regional Round 2 tournament on March 30.

Iowa placed third with a score of 196.5 against No. 8 Alabama, No. 9 Kentucky, No. 22 Illinois, and North Carolina State. The top two finishers, Alabama and Kentucky, moved on to the regional final. Kentucky advanced out of the regional to the NCAA Championships in Fort Worth, Texas.

“The one thing in our program that we don’t ever want to do is go backward,” Iowa head coach Larissa Libby said. “It’s really difficult to get into the Sweet 16, and we got there last year. The reality is, no matter what bracket you were in, it was so hard. The parity among the teams that were there is incredible. It could have been anybody.”

Despite the loss, senior JerQuavia Henderson was proud of her team and its accomplishments all season long.

“I am extremely grateful and proud of my freshmen, and I’m very proud of how they handle themselves,” Henderson said. “I am very excited to watch them grow. The season is very long, and for them to not have any experience, it’s really cool to watch them step up.”

Henderson scored a 9.925 on floor and a 39.500 in the all-around, both of which secured her runner-up finishes. She was just 0.025 short of qualifying for the NCAA Championships as an individual.

But Henderson said no matter the circumstances, the GymHawks keep a positive mindset. As a senior, Henderson said she made it a priority to be a good role model for the rest of the Hawkeyes, including the freshmen.

“I was making sure that I was the best teammate and the best sister that I possibly could have been for them,” Henderson said. “It’s scary because they look to you for direction, attention, everything. I really struggled with being perfect in that aspect. It was very comforting that they also in turn reassured me. They did a really good job and taught me things, like, that I’m still allowed to make mistakes.”

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Junior Adeline Kenlin was also only 0.025 away from an individual title on beam with a 9.925. Kenlin, who was the national runner-up on beam last season, said she was still pleased with her progression this year.

“I had some of the best performances I’ve had all season,” Kenlin said. “It really showed throughout the season. I was having a little bit of difficulties in the beginning, and then a little hiccup in the middle, and then I finished really well. Overall, I could see improvement throughout the season.”

Although the Hawkeyes failed to reach the Sweet 16, Henderson and Kenlin said they’re going to cherish the memories with their teammates this season. The little moments with her teammates were the most memorable, Henderson said.

“It was Karina Muñoz’s birthday, and we were flying back. Right as the clock turned 12 a.m., we all got out of our seats and started singing ‘Happy Birthday,’” Henderson said. “That was a pretty special moment and just to be part of that and enjoy little special things like that.”

With the 2023 season ending, Libby said she was proud of her team — not only for its athletic accomplishments, but also its impact on women’s sports.

“This team captured an entire state,” Libby said. “They transformed what Iowa gymnastics has been, and they’ve been doing that for a while. But this team notched it and secured that. To have been part of the transformation of this team during the 50 years of Title IX, what an incredible time to be a female athlete and to have hosted a championship.”