Injury forces ISU lineup into a game of musical chairs

Max Dible

The ISU gymnastics team (3-6, 1-1 Big 12) will play host to Minnesota at 6:30 p.m. Friday night in Ames. It is the first of two consecutive matchups with the 15th ranked Golden Gophers that will span two weekends.

The Cyclones have been riddled with injury all season, and last Sunday in DeKalb, Ill. was more of the same. Sophomore Sara Townsend suffered a season-ending knee injury that ISU coach Jay Ronayne said will require surgery.

Ronayne described Townsend as “even keel” and a “role model” and most of all, “a tough player to lose.”

The loss of Townsend hurts even more as it occurred at the same time that senior captain Michelle Shealy is finding her stride in her return from debilitating injuries to both her neck and back suffered last season.

The flow of gymnasts in and out of Ronayne’s lineup has created flux for the Cyclones, but the lineup uncertainty creates opportunities for others to step up, Ronayne said.

Those opportunities inspire competition in practice, and that competition has not only provided drive for the team but also helped to cultivate unity, said senior Henrietta Green.

“I think [the competition] helps to push the lineup to be better,” Green said. “It’s friendly, but at the same time, there is a little rivalry. Everyone wants to get in the lineup.”

Junior captain Caitlin Brown echoed Green’s assessment.

“It’s a healthy, positive push,” Brown said.

With Townsend sidelined, there are spots available on the floor exercise, the bars, and the vault. These chances for background players to stand up and shine have their merits, but there are significant disadvantages to substantial lineup shifting as well, Ronayne said.

“We will probably be competing with five on bars this weekend instead of six,” Ronayne said. “We do not have that mulligan throw-away score … It is not where we want to be. It is not a comfortable spot for us.”

The flux comes at an important point in the season as Iowa State prepares for back-to-back weekends with a nationally ranked Minnesota squad.

Even down an important competitor, the Cyclones have plenty of reason to rise up, said Brown, a twin cities natives.

“I am not a fan of Minnesota,” Brown said. “It is Iowa and Minnesota. They are close to home. We get them twice every year. There is a rivalry there.”

The Cyclones will try and capture round one against the Golden Gophers at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 21 at Hilton Coliseum with round two set for March 1 in Minneapolis.