ISU gymnasts tangle with top ranked Sooners in first road meet of the season


Senior Henrietta Green scored a 9.750 on the balance beam during the meet against Penn State on Jan. 5 at Hilton Coliseum.

Max Dible

After consecutive home meets, the ISU gymnastics team takes to the road this week for a conference showdown Jan. 17 in Norman, Okla.

Iowa State fell to No. 7 Michigan in Hilton Coliseum Jan. 10, and will be tested again in its first away meet of the season when it goes head-to-head with Oklahoma, the nation’s top-rated team.

“Oklahoma is very, very good. They are actually ranked No. 1 right now, but that doesn’t intimidate us,” said junior Caitlin Brown. “We know what we can do, and I’m comfortable that we can [be successful].”

A talented Oklahoma squad isn’t the only obstacle standing in the way of an ISU upset. ISU coach Jay Ronayne said that managing the logistics of travel will also play a key role in Iowa State’s performance.

“We run into a lot of travel issues all the time, so we are counting on that happening to us,” Ronayne said. “We may end up showing up right at meet time and be exhausted, but we’re still going to bring it. That happens to everybody.”

Another concern voiced by Ronayne is the execution of precise routines on unfamiliar equipment that may be older or maintained differently than the equipment used at Hilton.

“The biggest difference on the road is just how the equipment feels to us. Some bars are a little shakier and some beams are a little shakier or bouncier,” said senior Henrietta Green.

Brown said a change in routine is also a potential problem for Iowa State.

“It’s a different atmosphere, a different arena, a different training room, different equipment and it’s a matter of getting used to your surroundings,” Brown said. “At Hilton, we have habits, a routine. When you go somewhere else, you don’t have that.”

While Ronayne prefers to keep practices as uniform as possible to maintain a level of consistency, he has been preparing his gymnasts for the inevitable challenges a tough road matchup creates.

“Over the last month or two, we’ve been throwing curve balls at them,” Ronayne said. “Everyone has their favorite beam or set of bars, so we put them on another beam, or a different set of bars. We change things a bit to throw them off balance, so they are forced to adapt quickly.”

Despite the fact that Oklahoma is a conference foe, Brown and Green played down the rivalry angle with the Sooners, which Brown said provided a tactical advantage.

“Oklahoma is obviously a rivalry. It’s a Big 12 school,” Brown said. “But we want to go do our job like it’s a normal meet. I think that’s helpful because it keeps you calm. You don’t overthink anything, or put extra pressure on yourself.”

Ronayne values the calm, workman-like approach of his gymnasts to the upcoming meet with the Sooners, but also provided a few history lessons he hopes will spark a controlled flame to fuel his competitors.

“We’ve been at a Big 12 Championship in which the top two teams go on to nationals and tied with Oklahoma, which bumped us out of national title contention,” Ronayne said. “We’ve had a lot of competitions like that with them over the years, and I love it. With this [ISU] team, giving them a little extra fire helps them focus. They respond well to that.”

Brown reiterated her confidence in the Cyclones’ ability to respond, even when tasked with tackling the No. 1 team in the nation on the road.

“I think we can go in there and perform very well,” Brown said. “We’ve been improving the last two meets, and came out strong right off the bat, which is really good. We will continue to improve on that.”