Iowa State struggles, peaks during season


Junior Michelle Shealy does a flip during her performance on the balance beam on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, against Minnesota. The judges awarded Shealy a final score of 9.850 out of 10.

Maddy Arnold

This season was filled with injuries and low scores for the ISU gymnastics team, but a late season turnaround propelled one of its gymnasts to the highest-ever finish by a Cyclone at the NCAA Championships.

At the beginning of the season, Iowa State (8-14, 0-2 Big 12) struggled to hit routines in meets and keep its gymnasts healthy. The Cyclones peaked in the postseason with their highest scores all year as junior Michelle Shealy placed fifth on the balance beam final at nationals.

“Clearly the high point is our performance at the regional — the team that showed up that day is the team we expected all year,” said ISU coach Jay Ronayne. “The low points of our season were not being able to fill out a full squad.”

The season began for Iowa State with a 191.525-184.225 win against Wisconsin-La Crosse on Jan. 6, 2013. By the next meet against Kent State, three gymnasts had suffered concussion-like symptoms.

Iowa State narrowly beat Kent State on Jan. 11. Without junior Hailey Johnson, sophomore Caitlin Brown and freshman Kristen DeCosta, the Cyclones did not win a meet for more than a month.

“We’re in a new world where head injuries are a big deal,” Ronayne said. “Seeing at least some of our athletes being able to overcome that huge hurdle was pretty impressive. Now we will never ever be in that situation again, we hope.”

Iowa State’s biggest win of the season was an upset against then-No. 12 Minnesota on senior night. That meet was the first time the Cyclones had a team score of more than 195 points.

The success continued into the postseason for Iowa State at the Big 12 Championships, where it scored a season-high team score of 196.175 to place second.

Iowa State made it into the NCAA Regionals at Alabama, where it narrowly missed out on advancing to the NCAA Championships as a team by placing third. The Cyclones scored 195.4 and hit all 24 routines in the meet — a goal they had been working toward all season.

“At the end of the season we kind of figured it out. We were able to hit 24-for-24 routines and get the scores that we wanted,” said junior Henrietta Green. “It would have been nice if it had started off a little bit earlier in the season.”

During regionals, Shealy qualified for the all-around competition at the NCAA Championships. At the semifinal on April 19, 2013, she scored a 9.900 on balance beam that qualified her for the individual event final on April 21.

Shealy scored 9.8375 and tied for fifth place on beam at finals. She earned All-America honors and received the highest score ever on beam by Cyclone at nationals.

“I couldn’t have been happier with how it went,” Shealy said. “I haven’t gotten a 9.9 [this season] so to get that at nationals is just amazing. I’m really happy with how it went.”