Gymnasts focus on regionals, prepare for hostile environment


Brian Achenbach/Iowa State Daily

Junior all around Caitlin Brown scored a 9.800 on her floor exercise routine during Iowa State lost to Minnesota by a score of 194.750 to 196.525 on Feb. 21 at Hilton Coliseum.

Harrison March

The 2014 NCAA Regionals will be unlike anything the ISU gymnastics team has seen this season.

The Cyclones are heading south to Baton Rouge, La. where they will have to compete in front of a raucous Louisiana State University crowd that was ranked in the top-5 in attendance last season. ISU coach Jay Ronayne served as an assistant coach at Auburn before coming to Ames, so he is familiar with the environment his team will face.

“I’ve been there many times. I know that that crowd is loud and they’re very, very passionate about their Tigers and they are very passionate if you are not a Tiger,” Ronayne said. “I’m trying to prepare the team to know not everyone is there for them, but if we can spin it a little bit and make them feel like all of that noise is for us instead, that will help.”

Iowa State is using some out-of-the-box methods to get ready for the atmosphere at LSU. Ronayne recently began playing crowd noises over the speakers at the practice facility to get the team accustomed to the noise level.

“We did a lot of that on beam on Monday, had some audience sounds and roars of the crowd,” said junior Caitlin Brown. “Everyone in the gym was like ‘Woohoo!’ and all crazy and stuff. The noise adds to the pressure, knowing you have to hit on this one.”

By the time the meet begins, Iowa State will have had two full weeks to prepare for the purple-and-gold faithful. That added time off, though, comes with its drawbacks.

One of Ronayne’s points of emphasis after Iowa State’s last meet at the Big 12 Championships was keeping the team in its groove. The Cyclones came on strong late in the regular season, but have not had a bye week since the start of February.

Senior Camille Santerre-Gervais said the team knows what has to be done to stay in the rhythm they had late in the season.

“I think it’s [going to be] keeping the energy up and also the stress level down,” Santerre-Gervais said. “Really grouping up as a team together is the main thing.”

Santerre-Gervais may also have the best shot of any ISU gymnast to make nationals even if the team does not advance. To get to the NCAA Nationals, the top two teams from each regional advance, as well as the top two finishers on each event not from a nationals-bound team.

Heading into regionals, Santerre-Gervais is in a three-way tie for sixth place nationally on bars with an regional qualifying score of 9.925. The thought of nationals is on the back-burner for her, though.

“I try to keep it to the side, not think about it. I just want to go out there and really do what I do in the gym,” Santerre-Gervais said. “I think I’ve been having good routines, but I think I can still do better and going for that would be really great [to] finish on a high note.”

Though the challenges will be plentiful when the Cyclones head south, they’re keeping the focus on having a good time.

“We just need to go with it, feed off of it,” Santerre-Gervais said. “We’re all excited to go somewhere south where it’s warm. We are really, really pumped and I think this is going to be our meet. We’ve been looking forward to it all season.”