Senior gymnast’s career comes full circle


Photo: Kelby Wingert/Iowa State Daily

Senior Elizabeth Stranahan showcases her routines for the NCAA Regional meet, which will take place April 6, 2013 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Maddy Arnold

After almost 20 years in the sport of gymnastics, it’s fitting that senior Elizabeth Stranahan’s career may end so close to where it began.

Stranahan’s gymnastics career has brought her almost 1,000 miles away from her native home of Atlanta to compete for Iowa State. On Saturday, at the NCAA Regional, Stranahan will return to compete in what could be her final meet in Tuscaloosa, Ala., just a three-hour drive from her hometown.

“I am over the moon that we are going back close to home,” Stranahan said. “I could not be happier to get to — hopefully this isn’t the last meet — but kind of bring this journey to a close near home. This is the closest we’ve been in four years.”

Four years ago, Stranahan’s career at Iowa State started as a walk-on. She competed in just one event for the Cyclones but has become an all-around gymnast and co-captain by her senior year.

Stranahan is the only senior that has competed for Iowa State this season, and her last season has been the best for her.

She has posted career-high scores on vault, uneven bars, balance beam and all-around this year.

“A lot of girls are really good [when they are] very young,” Stranahan said. “[At] 12 or 13, you’ll really see them spike. I wasn’t exactly that kid. Mine’s been kind of a steady progression — where I am right now is the best I’ve ever been.

“I had to work really hard in club, and I had to work really hard in college. That makes me even more proud of what I’ve accomplished.”

Stranahan was first introduced to gymnastics when she was just 3 years old. By her senior year in high school, she was a state champion and placed first on the balance beam.

During her junior and senior years in high school, Stranahan was co-captain of her club team and went to junior Olympic nationals twice, which is where Iowa State began to recruit her.

“Her best event and the one that shows her personality the most is floor — that’s what caught my eye when I was recruiting her,” said ISU coach Jay Ronayne. “Her floor was just very polished, very elegant. I saw a ton of potential in her. She [is] not a hugely powerful, quick gymnast, but she’s very pretty to watch.”

Junior Michelle Shealy grew up near Stranahan and competed against her in club gymnastics before becoming teammates and roommates with her at Iowa State.

Shealy said Stranahan has always been a good leader, but during this season in particular, it has shown because she is the only senior on the team.

“[Stranahan] is a fun person, but she also knows when it’s time to get serious,” Shealy said. “She’s been our co-captain last year and this year. She’s just a great role model. As the only senior this year especially we look up to her.”

Stranahan said after this season she will be retiring from gymnastics but hopes to still be involved with the sport in the future.

“I’d love to coach,” Stranahan said. “I’d love to maybe be a judge.”

The regional meet will be an emotional one for Stranahan because she will be so close to home for what could be her last meet. Even so, the senior is hoping to avoid letting the emotions affect her. 

“I’m trying not to think about all that and not let that emotions get in the way,”  Stranahan said. “I’m sure, as we get to that final solute, that last routine, we’ll kind of know where we stand, and I’ll let that emotion kind of come in.

“When I hit the arena, I just want to do my job. I want to hit 4-for-4 [routines].”