Gymnasts prepare for regionals piece by piece


Photo: Yue Wu/Iowa State Daily

Michelle Browning, left, and Celine Paulus are both seniors on the ISU gymnastics team.

Isaac Hunt

Anyone who has struggled putting a puzzle together always questions whether all of the pieces are there, but no one ever thinks there are too many. 

Well, that’s exactly what ISU gymnastics coach Jay Ronayne’s problem is: too many pieces. 

“The biggest worry I have is [that my coaches and I] have a hard time deciding who’s going to actually be competing,” Ronayne said. “They’re all really good, but it makes it tough on a coach. Who am I going to put in? Somebody’s going to have to not compete.”

It may not be as big of a problem as facing No. 5 Nebraska, No. 8 Utah and No. 17 Minnesota, but the team doesn’t like to focus on the competition. 

“I want my team to feel like they were prepared enough to walk in [and] do their thing to the best of their ability,” Ronayne said. “If they move on, awesome. If they don’t, it was to no fault of theirs.

“If they feel like they’ve done their job, then they’ve won. Whatever happens remains to be seen, but to me that’s a win. That’s a big win.”

In practice, the team is doing a puzzle all its own. But the women don’t put it together; instead, they work to take it apart.

It’s a points game, Ronayne said. The girls receive certain points for doing things the coaches see as important, such as hitting routines or sticking dismounts. 

For every point the gymnasts earn, they get to remove a piece of the puzzle. When it is removed, it reveals a message the coaches have for the team.

“It’s good for us because it has us in practice as a team reaching a certain goal,” said senior co-captain Michelle Browning. “Every performance we do makes a difference in the tally for the week. So when we go into regionals, we’ll already have that focus and be thinking the same way.”

The gymnasts have bought in and they can see the process working.

“It makes us work as a team just like we would in a meet,” said junior co-captain Elizabeth Stranahan. “It makes every routine worth something. When we go into a meet, it’s the same accountability and the same trust in our teammates.”

Freshman Caitlin Brown said it makes them think about every little point they can get in a meet. 

Those points will be very important as the No. 24 Cyclones must score higher than four other teams at regionals, including at least two of the three top 20 teams mentioned earlier, to advance to the NCAA Championships.