Freshmen have immediate impact on gymnastics team


Photo: Zunkai Zhao/Iowa State Daily

Elizabeth Stranahan participates in the floor exercise during Friday’s meet with Auburn at Hilton Coliseum. Stranahan helped the Cyclones defeat the Tigers 193.475 – 192.775.

Maddy Arnold

Jay Ronayne was thinking about the future when he recruited four freshmen and accepted two walk-ons for this season.

The seventh-year gymnastics coach filled more than half of his 13 person roster with underclassmen. Of those underclassmen, the freshmen have had an immediate impact on the team — four of them have competed already this season.

“I think the freshmen are a big part of our team,” said junior Hailey Johnson before the season began. “They’re really important to the team. I see them competing.”

Freshman Sara Townsend has competed in all three meets so far this season. At a four-team meet in Minnesota, the walk-on competed in three events and performed an exhibition routine — which does not count toward the team score — on the balance beam.

“I’m seeing improvement almost daily now in practice,” Ronayne said of Townsend on Wednesday. “Her confidence is up a lot more than it was when she was one month into school. She’s gotten a lot stronger in that time.”

Fellow freshmen Sammie Pearsall and Alex Marasco have also competed in every meet this season.

When senior Elizabeth Stranahan fell off the bars at the four-team meet, Marasco competed for her on balance beam. Marasco received 9.8, the highest score on the team, for her clutch performance.

Kristen DeCosta is the final freshman who has competed for Iowa State. After her season debut against Kent State on Jan. 11, she was injured during practice and has not competed since.

Although freshmen are inexperienced, Stranahan said having them compete should not be a problem for the team.

“[Freshmen] come in fresh, and they come in excited,” said Stranahan before the season started. “Freshmen are eager; they want to compete.

“After the first two or three meets, everyone become a veteran. As soon as you feel the atmosphere and the excitement and the nerves, you kind of fit right into the flow.”