Little swagger goes long way for gymnastics team during Spring Break

Isaac Hunt

The state of Iowa wasn’t the only thing that heated up this past week.

The ISU gymnastics team had two of its best performances during Spring Break, scoring more than 195 team points in its losses to Minnesota and Nebraska.

“There’s a different look of confidence in their eyes,” said coach Jay Ronayne. “They’ve got a little bit of a swagger, a bounce in their step. They know the hard work they’ve done is going to pay off.”

The break from classes allowed the team to practice as one unit and not have to stagger practice throughout the day. This, Ronayne said, was a big part of the team’s recent success. 

“It’s a lot easier [to keep them focused],” Ronayne said. “We’re able to actually do team things and I like that.”

Two seniors, Michelle Browning and Celine Paulus, had their career-high all-around scores Friday when their team was close to upsetting No. 6 Nebraska.

“They’re drawing upon their experience,” Ronayne said. “I think they’re saving their best gymnastics for the end of their careers. I don’t know if I could be more happy with them. I’m overwhelmed with their focus and dedication.”

Paulus’ 39.500 was the highest by a Cyclone since Janet Anson in 2007. She also scored a 9.900 in three events, also a first since 2007.

“We were all really excited to compete,” Paulus said. “The first three lineups I’m last, so I fed off of everyone. It felt right and it was easy and exciting.”

After two strong meets against top 25 teams, Iowa State broke into the top 25 itself.

This is the first time since week one that the Cyclones have been in the top 25. Entering the regular season at No. 24, the team is going to enter the postseason at No. 25.

Ronayne said his team performed how it was practicing — in its final event on beam, the gymnasts counted one fall. If not for that, Ronayne said his team would have won the meet. 

“All of these last few meets shows us that we’re there,” Browning said. “We are competitive with top teams and if we put it together, we can beat them.”

Practices leading up to the meet at Nebraska were very difficult. The coaching staff purposely pushed the athletes to see how they would respond, but the results paid off. 

“Once we got to Nebraska, we could let them relax and do what is natural for them,” Ronayne said. “It was great.”

The Cyclones have their toughest meet ahead of them Saturday where they will face No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 19 Missouri at the Big 12 Championships in Norman, Okla.