Gymnasts heading to Utah for NCAA Regional


Photo: Rebekka Brown/Iowa State Daily

All-around gymnast Celine Paulus, left, and the rest of the gymnastics team watch as the NCAA Gymnastics Committee announces regional and championship sites for the 2012 and 2013 National Collegiate Women’s Gymnastics Championships. The Cyclones were picked to compete April 7 in Salt Lake City.

Isaac Hunt

Iowa State received a No. 4 seed in its qualifying region for the NCAA Championships. The Cyclones will travel to Utah to face five other teams — No. 1 seed Nebraska, No. 2 seed Utah, No. 3 seed Minnesota, No. 5 seed Arizona State, and No. 6 seed San Jose State —  for a top-two placement.

No. 24 Iowa State has already seen Nebraska and Minnesota twice this season. The Cyclones lost twice to Nebraska and split the series against Minnesota.

“We know them, we know what they’re capable of,” said coach Jay Ronayne. “That familiarity is very important to us and we feel comfortable about it.”

Ronayne and his athletes gathered around in the practice gym Monday for the first-ever regionals selection show for gymnastics, which is part of the NCAA’s winter championship selections. 

The team knew it would be going to regionals, the only question was where. The gymnasts were glued to the screen and their excitement elevated when Iowa State was announced.

Having traveled to Utah just two years prior, some of the gymnasts are in familiar territory. 

“I’m really excited because it’s really close to home,” said senior Celine Paulus. “I also have a great experience there because I got my first 9.900 on vault [there]. It’s really nice to compete there.”

Ronayne said the crowd of 10,000-plus is exciting, but not necessarily intimidating. The sixth-year coach credits Utah fans with great knowledge and appreciation of gymnastics, seeing as their school has accounted for nine national titles in its history.

“One thing our coaches always tell us is that if you hear loud cheering, just assume it’s for you,” Paulus said. “We definitely can feed off of that and use it to our advantage.”

The top two teams and top two performers from nonqualifying teams will advance to the NCAA Championships in Duluth, Ga.

Defeating two of the top three seeds will be a task in itself, but Ronayne and his team have proven this season that they are capable of making upsets happen. 

“One out of six,” Ronayne said, when asked about the team’s chances, giving each team the same chance to advance. “There’s just a lot of factors. Any given day, anything can happen. It’s pretty open.”

Peaking at the right time is something coaches and players alike have stressed the importance of this season. Continuing to rise every meet, this team seems to be doing just that. 

“I don’t think we’ve peaked totally yet,” said assistant coach Katie Minasola. “We haven’t hit our highest potential. There is enough gas in the tank and I think they are going to do very well at regionals. They’re ready to go and they’re hungry.”

Iowa State will travel to Salt Lake City to perform on April 7 for a chance to compete in the NCAA Championships.