Potential Lineups: Iowa

By Caroline Medley


Next, we’ll take a look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, who finished the regular 2016 season No. 19 — the first time it’s broken the top 20 since 2011. In 2017, though, it will lose a key senior class. Opua Calucag, Alie Glover and Johanny Sotillo will leave behind some significant holes. But with five new freshmen and a number of untapped veteran resources, it may be able to match or even improve on last year’s success.

Glover is the only loss Iowa will see on vault, but it may be a significant one with hers being one of the better Yurchenko fulls in the lineup. Misty-Jade Carlson, Angel Metcalf and Maria Ortiz should return
fulls of their own. In addition, Mollie Drenth, Rose Piorkowski and Nikki Youd will return Yurchenko arabians, though don’t be surprised to see Drenth upgrade to increase her competitive edge in the all around. As far as the freshmen, Canadian elite Clair Kaji may be able to contribute with her Yurchenko full, which earned her a solid 14.15 at Elite Canada earlier this year. Annie Kustoff also may be able to

contribute a full. She’s only competed a layout, but she’s been training the full for over a year, so maybe she’ll debut it for Iowa. With the addition of Kaji and Kustoff, the Hawkeyes will have almost a full lineup of Yurchenko fulls — twice as many as last season!

Bars will suffer the loss of former Venezuelan elite Sotillo, whose bar set was very much a high risk, high reward kind of routine. In contrast, returning veterans Drenth, Metcalf, Lexi Mura, Lanie Snyder and Melissa Zurawski were more consistent competitors last year. Between the five of them, they averaged one fall over the entire season. Three of them compete similar routines, with a piked Jaeger directly into an overshoot to the low bar and either a double layout or double tuck dismount. But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it? It certainly seemed to work for Iowa last season. However, Kaji and fellow international elite Charlotte Sullivan of New Zealand should be able to contribute some variety to the lineup if they can correct a couple of issues. Kaji competes a clean Jaeger and pak salto, though she has a number of empty kip casts that she’ll want to eliminate for college competition. Sullivan competes a Tkachev and a pak salto in elite, but for NCAA she may downgrade to something less difficult. Her legs in the pak are a bit messy and her handstands could use some work, but the Hawkeyes will likely want her lineup-ready as quickly as possible. With only five veterans returning, they’ll need their freshmen to provide some depth on bars, or they’ll need other upperclassmen to step up. Four gymnasts who did not contribute last season will return to the roster in relatively unknown quantities, though none of their club bars scores suggest that they’ll factor into this event.

Both Glover and Sotillo will be missed on beam, but the Hawkeyes still have a full lineup worth of gymnasts to contribute. Drenth, Metcalf, Youd, Savannah Borman and Ashleigh Edlin were all part of the beam team and reached at least 9.75 at some point during the season. Snyder only participated in

exhibition routines, but with that experience, she should hopefully be able to step up into a lineup spot this season. Kaji and Sullivan should also be able to contend for lineup positions with their elite experience and skill vocabulary. Kaji competes some very elegant elements, like a switch half to sissone combination and an Onodi. And Sullivan, who placed foruth on beam at Pacific Rims this year, competes a unique back

handspring to back pike series and demonstrates perfect split position on her switch leap to switch half. With six veterans and these two newcomers, Iowa should see beam become one of its better events in the coming season.

On floor, Glover is the only loss, and there are plenty of gymnasts waiting to fill lineup spots. Veterans Borman, Drenth, Edlin, Metcalf, Snyder and Zurawski all contributed to lineups last season and should return solid routines. None of them competed E passes last season, but neither did Glover, so the

veteran Hawkeyes are in essentially the same place as they were this time last year. Incoming freshmen Bre Fitzke and Gina Leal should be able to contribute similar routines with similar pass combinations. The majority of Iowa’s routines this season will likely feature a lot of double tucks, double pikes, 1.5 twists and layout to layout full combinations. To add some difficulty to the mix, Sullivan and Kaji both have

E passes to bring to the table. Sullivan performed a solid triple twist at worlds last year, and Kaji competed a full-in at Elite Canada this summer. With all the added depth and difficulty, floor should be no problem for Iowa.

In the all around, Drenth and Metcalf are both shoo-ins. Drenth won seven all around titles during the regular season and qualified as an individual to nationals, and Metcalf took home the title at Iowa’s session of the Big Ten Championship. Though a freshman, Kaji could definitely contribute on all four events and could become an all around contender if she can clean up a few things. Bars is her weakest event of the four, but if she can focus on good handstand positions and get rid of her empty swings, she’ll be fine. Her other focus should be her landings, particularly on vault and floor. Landing deductions played a large part in lowering her scores at recent meets, so if the difficulty of her skills is what’s making her miss landings, it may not be worth the risk to compete them in college competition. These are all decisions coach Larissa Libby will have to make in the coming months as the Hawkeyes gear up for what hopes to be another stellar season.

Come back tomorrow for our next Big 10 installment — the Maryland Terrapins! If you like what you saw here, check out more on potential lineups here, any of our previous lineup articles here or request a new team in a comment below. Rest assured, we will finish Big 10 before moving on to any new teams!


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