Gymnastics come off “nightmare” meet, prepare for No. 15 Minnesota


Jonathan Krueger/Iowa State Dail

Sophomore Alex Marasco attempts the vault in the women’s gymnastics meet with Michigan and Illinois State on Jan. 10 at Hilton Coliseum. Marasco scored a 9.675 in the vault in the Cyclone’s second place finish behind Michigan.

Harrison March

The ISU gymnastics team found itself in an assortment of unusual situations last weekend in DeKalb, Ill.

What was scheduled to be a tri-meet with Northern Illinois playing host to Iowa State and Texas Women’s University became a quad-meet less than 48 hours before the meet began. University of Wisconsin-Whitewater was a late addition to the lineup, not scheduled to compete in Sunday’s meet until Friday night.

This twist ended up playing out well for the Cyclones, as Wisconsin-Whitewater’s fourth-place finish gave third place Iowa State its only win of the afternoon.

The other twists: not so much.

“The word ‘nightmare’ comes to mind,” said ISU coach Jay Ronayne. “The whole day was just a nightmare … We had some weird mistakes on every event. It was just out of character for the team and, in a sense, it all just snow balled.”

It all started shortly before the meet began, when senior Hailey Johnson was pulled from the lineup moments before the team made its march-in to start the competition. Johnson had competed on floor exercise and beam in four of Iowa State’s first five meets of the season.

“I only heard second-hand that she wasn’t feeling too well,” Ronayne said. “If any athlete says they aren’t feeling too well I have to just say it’s time to stop.”

Once the meet got going, things got worse.

“We started on bars and had a few weird mistakes that were pretty uncharacteristic,” said senior Milan Ivory. “Then, on beam, our fifth and sixth people, Caitlin [Brown] and myself both fell and that was also really uncharacteristic because we’re the anchors there.”

Five ISU gymnasts each fell once during their routines Sunday, registering one each on bars, vault and floor, as well as the two on beam.

“Being a spectator, I just felt like we never got into our normal selves. We started on bars and made a couple uncharacteristic mistakes,” said Hailey Johnson. “We kind of got it back, but I felt like we just never really got into our groove.”

Perhaps the most crucial fall of the meet came on the floor exercise.

During her final tumbling pass, Sara Townsend missed her landing and injured her knee. Townsend, who had competed on bars, floor and vault all season could not finish the meet. Ronayne said the injury will require surgery that will likely end the sophomore’s season.

“I mean, that’s just a huge bummer. She was always a steady competitor,” Ronayne said, adding that Townsend was a role player for the team. “When she was in there we didn’t think about her because we knew she was going to do what she does, and that’s hit routines.”

Ronayne said he has an idea of the candidates to take over Townsend’s spot on floor and vault, but that the Cyclones may be down a competitor on bars for a little while.

“On bars, we don’t have the replacement yet. Michelle Shealy will be there eventually, but she’s not ready yet,” Ronayne said. “We’re probably going to compete with five [gymnasts] on bars this weekend, so we won’t have that mulligan score. It’s not a comfortable spot to be in, but we have to keep working.”

Contrary to the negatives of Sunday’s meet, five ISU gymnasts tallied meet-high scores on the four apparatuses: Caitlin Brown on vault (9.800), Camille Santerre-Gervais on bars (9.900), Michelle Shealy and Alex Marasco tied on beam (9.775) and Milan Ivory on floor (9.850).

These individual achievements were not enough to overcome the mistakes, however, as the ISU gymnastics team registered its lowest team score of the season with 192.725.

Johnson said that the team’s maturity has helped it get over the disappointing quad-meet and begin preparation for the coming matchup with No. 15 Minnesota.

“We’ve already put it behind us. We came in yesterday and everybody stepped up on vault,” Johnson said. “We’ll have to see that happen a lot now that we’re down a person.

“We talk about it a lot. We’re college-level gymnasts so we all know what we’re capable of and what has to get done, so we naturally come together and just do what we need to do.”