ISU gymnasts seek to build off last season’s late success

Harrison March

As the preseason begins to wind down, the ISU gymnastics team gears up for competition. Seeking to build off last season’s late success, the Cyclones feel poised for a big year.

“We started looking good late last season,” said ISU coach Jay Ronayne. “I think that’s when the team really realized that we could be pretty good. We’re going to try to capitalize on the momentum we gained [last season] and get off to a good start.”

Though last season ended with a disappointing 8-14 (0-2 Big 12) record, the Cyclones are returning three All-Big 12 Championship team members with Caitlin Brown on beam, Milan Ivory on vault and Camille Santerre-Gervais on bars.

“I’m hoping to go all-around this season,” Brown said. “Obviously I want to still be strong where I was last year, but I want to do more to help the team this season.”

The sentiment of selflessness is not unique to Brown, as every gymnast is focusing on how they can each contribute to the overall success of the team this season.

“Everybody is working hard,” Brown said. “It’s like our poster says: ‘One Team, One Vision.’ We all believe in that, and I think it’ll show.”

Another returning stand-out on the team is senior Michelle Shealy, who last season qualified for the NCAA Championships in the individual all-around and beam events. Shealy went on to earn fifth place on the beam, the highest finish on beam in ISU history.

Shealy’s efforts were recognized by being named a First Team All-American on the beam, making her the first Cyclone to make an All-American team since 2007.

“Coming off a lot of personal success, the goal this year is to get the whole team working together,” Shealy said. “We’re building a lot of confidence right now and that’ll be good for the freshmen who haven’t competed yet.”

Shealy’s off-season, however, did not come without challenges. Shealy suffered an upper-back and lower-neck injury after falling from the bars in practice.

“We’re giving her time,” Ronayne said. “She’s coming along well, but we don’t want her to hurry and make it worse.”

While things are shaping up in the gym, Ronayne acknowledged that only so much preparation can happen in practice.

“The [intrasquad] meet is going to tell us a lot about ourselves,” Ronayne said. “We pretty much go head-to-head in practice already, but the environment is very different. It can be harder to perform when a lot of eyes are watching.

“But it’s like I always say: it’s the same floor and the same bars as practice. We just have to treat it like that and we’ll compete at a high level.”

With the start of the season approaching, Iowa State is hard at work to start this year’s campaign strongly while keeping their sights set on the ultimate goal.

“We learned a lot after last year’s [post-season] run,” Shealy said. “Finishing so close to making nationals showed us what it’ll take to get there this year. We can definitely taste it.”