Freshman walk-ons make big impact on team


Sara Townsend performs a floor exercise routine during the Beauty and the Beast gymnastics and wrestling meet Feb. 8 at Hilton Coliseum.

Maddy Arnold

The ISU gymnastics team is young this season with five freshmen on the roster.

Two of those freshmen — Sara Townsend and Alex Marasco — are walk-ons who have so far made a big impact for the Cyclones despite the difficulty of adjusting to collegiate competition.

“I am very happy with the way that they’ve stepped up,” said ISU coach Jay Ronayne. “Our freshmen are kind of forced into a role where they have to come off the bench and do something for us. There is no chance for them to get lost for a little while. They need to get out there and do it.”

Marasco has been a two-event gymnast so far for Iowa State. This season, she has competed on both the vault and balance beam at meets.

Townsend has competed in every meet so far this season for Iowa State, performing on vault, uneven bars and floor exercise. Townsend is tied for the top score on vault, 9.75, this season for the Cyclones.

The walk-ons said it can be difficult to play such a large part on the team as freshmen. Townsend said it was tough for them to adjust to their new roles on the team.

“We don’t have very much experience, but I think we’re almost halfway through the season. Now, we’ve learned what we have to do,” Townsend said. “During preseason, it was hard to adjust because we had 6 a.m. workouts and had to learn how to manage our time, but once we got everything settled, it was great.”

Marasco, a Nebraska native, and Townsend, an Illinois native, did not have any ties to Iowa State coming in. However, they said they walked on because they liked the atmosphere the team provided.

“I came to Iowa State because I thought it more was family oriented. It felt like home,” Marasco said. “The team was nice and welcoming, so they made us feel at home.”

Both walk-ons were recruited by Ronayne and signed to compete for Iowa State before their freshman season. Although they are not on scholarship this year, earning them in the future is a possibility for both gymnasts.

“Sara Townsend has been doing a great job,” Ronayne said. “Alex Marasco [has] also [been] doing wonderfully on vault and beam. I couldn’t ask for a better bench to come on in and do what they need to do right off the bat.”