Freshman gymnast heads home to compete


Photo: Kayla Greiner/Iowa State Daily

Iowa’s Annie Szatkowski reacts to her performance on the balance beam during the Iowa State-Iowa meet Friday, Jan. 27, at Hilton Coliseum. Szatkowski, Iowa State’s Caitlin Brown and Michelle Browning all had a three-way tie for second place with a score of 9.825 in the event. 

Isaac Hunt

Caitlin Brown’s best performance of the year came at home against Minnesota, scoring a 9.825 in floor, beam and vault on Feb. 26.

Could she have a home advantage against this team away from Ames?

The freshman and her teammates travel to the University of Minnesota, just 30 miles away from Brown’s hometown of Apple Valley, Minn., to try and top the No. 18 team in the nation. 

“I know she wants to beat [Minnesota],” said coach Jay Ronayne before his team’s last meet at home. “Being a young gymnast growing up in the Minneapolis area, that’s what you go to see. That’s who you idolize when you’re a little kid.”

Ronayne said Brown was aware of the rivalry between the two schools in the sport of gymnastics and she wanted to be her best.

The lone freshman proved her coach correct by scoring season highs in two events and having her best overall meet of the season — a meet that held some familiar faces.

The Minnesota coach used to visit Classic Gymnastics, Brown’s old gym which she used to attend with UM freshman Kylie Schermann.

“It was nice seeing them, but it made things more competitive,” Brown said.

Hoping to repeat this Saturday against the top 25 team, Brown feels the excitement of this meet completely. She said she looks forward to performing for her family and friends while having an even better showing than she did on Feb. 26.

“I really want to do that much better,” Brown said. “I’ve competed there before. I know what I’m going into, I just need to stay confident and hopefully we can do well.”

Senior co-captain Michelle Browning said she admires the freshman’s poise and has been impressed with her consistency. But to Brown’s old coach, Bryon Hough, the poise is not anything new.

“The poise was natural,” Hough said. “She’s always been a couple of years more mature than her age. She’s able to hold her chin up and take pride in what she’s doing.”

Hough joked when telling a story about how her poise may have been lacking her first meet at age 7. 

“Her mother told me she wasn’t going to be a good gymnast,” Hough chuckled. “She forgot her floor routine, just stood in the middle and got lost.”

Brown will have no trouble finding her way around in her now top event Saturday at 6 p.m., when Iowa State (5-5, 0-2 Big 12) faces No. 18 Minnesota (4-9).