Senior performance lifts ISU gymnastics to second in Big 12s


Photo: Megan Wolff/Iowa State Daily

Elizabeth Stranahan balances on the beam, at which she scored a 9.700. Iowa State hosted the Big 12 Championship in gymnastics on Saturday, March 23, 2013, at Hilton Coliseum. The championship featured Iowa State, Oklahoma and West Virginia. Oklahoma took the championship with a score of 197.200. Iowa State scored 196.175 and West Virginia scored 194.675.

Isaac Hunt

In Elizabeth Stranahan’s final performance in Hilton Coliseum, the senior gymnast raised her team to levels it hadn’t reached in five years.

Iowa State has not held outright second-place honors since the 2007-08 season. Last year, it tied with Missouri, which left the Big 12 after the season, for second place when Oklahoma walked away as the outright champion.

“This is the team we have been expecting to see all year,” said coach Jay Ronayne. “For various reasons we weren’t able to get the athletes that were in today to compete at the level they are competing at.”

Iowa State scored a final 196.175 with scores of 49 or better in all events. Oklahoma finished with a score of 197.200 while West Virginia ended the day with 194.675.

In his seventh season, Ronayne led his team to its highest Big 12 Championship score since 2006, when the team won its last title, but he did it with the help of his lone senior.

Stranahan placed third in the all-around and broke a team record with a score of 39.175.

“It was fantastic,” Stranahan said. “Not only was it my personal best, but it was also our team’s best. It’s great to be able to celebrate for myself, but it’s also great to celebrate for my team. There are great things still to come.”

With Stranahan leading the way, her team followed behind the momentum from the first event on.

“I can’t imagine anything more that I want for my team than to have a team captain performing with that kind of poise,” Ronayne said. “That set the tone for everyone else to do the same thing.”

Not only did the senior set records, but junior Milan Ivory set records of her own breaking her personal best on vault with 9.875 and tying a team-high 9.875 on floor, her only two events of the day.

“It meant a lot,” Ivory said. “The past couple meets have been rough for me and going out there and doing a good vault for my team was really exciting.”

Scores of 9.800 or better from Ivory, Stranahan and sophomore Caitlin Brown on vault, the Cyclones’ worst event so far this season had turned into one of their best performances.

“We struggled on vault all year long,” Ronayne said. “It’s been our Achilles heel, especially at home when you start the meet off with vault. It’s very difficult to regroup the team right after a slow start. It suddenly became the norm after vault. We expected low scores.”

Ivory was last to go on vault and had one of the most difficult routines on her team, but going last had its advantages.

“Before on vault everyone before me had done so well,” Ivory said. “I was thinking ‘OK, just keep it going.’ They set everything up for me. Them doing well gave me confidence to keep it going. That was exciting.”

The momentum rose the rest of the day on all the other events following the vault and the team’s energy was surreal.

“We had momentum right from the very beginning because we met our goal on vault,” Ronayne said. “We felt that it was the best performance on vault all year. Everyone could feel it. It was something you could actually touch.”

Now that the Cyclones have completed their scheduled matchups, they await the selection committee’s choice on whether they advance to NCAA Regionals or whether their season is complete.

“It’s very encouraging that this happens right at the end of the season towards championship time,” Ronayne said of his team’s high score. “If we’re fortunate enough to be selected to move on to the first round of NCAAs then we are the most ready we have been all year.”