May 2016

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Page 134 of 160

135 F rom the first intrasquad of the season to the NCAA Championships, the University of Iowa women's gymnastics team lived by its season-long motto — Can't Stop, Won't Stop. e GymHawks' blood, sweat, and tears culminated to a top 25 national ranking and a first-team All- American. "It is surreal," said UI head coach Larissa Libby. "It is hard to believe that the season is over, which is a good thing because that means the expectation for us was to continue on. I love being around this team and with the season being over, it means I don't get to spend as much time with them anymore. at is just as painful as anything else." e GymHawks finished the 2016 season ranked No. 23 nationally — the program's first top-25 finish since 2004. Iowa was the fourth-highest ranked Big Ten team behind Nebraska, Minnesota, and Michigan. e entire GymHawk coaching staff earned NCAA North Central Region Coach of the Year honors aer leading the team to a 16-win season. Libby was named Regional Coach of the Year, while assistant coaches Jennifer Green and Caleb Phillips earned Assistant Coach of the Year honors. While team competition concluded with Libby's ninth regional appearance in 12 seasons (and a fourth-place finish at the Iowa City NCAA Regional), junior Mollie Drenth carried the GymHawk motto to Fort Worth, Texas. Drenth's third-place finish in the all-around (39.450) was enough to qualify her for the NCAA Championships, making her Iowa's first NCAA Championship qualifier since Rebecca Simbhudas and Houry Gebeshian in 2011. "I don't think the season could have ended in a better way for Mollie," said Libby. "She represented our program with class and a high level of gymnastics. She did her job. She put Iowa on the map." Drenth did not come home from nationals empty- handed, scoring a 9.9125 on beam to finish the season No. 4 in the country. Her beam score also earned her first-team All-America honors, making her the program's first All-American since Alexis Maday in 2004 (and the third overall). "You can't be perfect your first time out," said Libby. "She has never been in this setting, she didn't know what it was all about, and yet she fit in with the best." Aer experiencing a national championship as an individual, Drenth is determined to bring her team back with her as a senior. "Nationals was an incredible experience," said Drenth. "My whole team came to cheer me on and that was amazing. It brought tears to my eyes. Having their support opened my eyes to how awesome my team really is. "All of the other teams were great, but we deserve to be out there with everyone else. e biggest lesson I am bringing back is that every detail counts. e competition was so close; it really came down to details. Every stick matters and you really have to hit. I am excited to work hard next year and make it there as a team." In the 2016 season alone, Drenth collected a total of 19 titles, including eight beam titles, seven in the all-around, three on vault, and one on floor. e junior collected five all-around event titles in five consecutive weeks from Jan. 23-Feb. 20. e Riverview, Florida, native captured Iowa's season- high scores on vault (9.950), beam (9.925), and all-around (39.475). "It was thrilling from start to finish," said Libby. "e compliments from people that I love and respect in this community were constant. She has come a long way since her freshman year and she has more in her. is won't be the last of her, and I don't think it will be the last for the team. e Hawkeyes have just arrived."

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