Nationals or bust for gymnastics team

Isaac Hunt

After a come-from-behind win at Hilton Coliseum on Friday night, the ISU gymnastics team is not going to settle for anything less than a trip to the NCAA Championships in April.

“Long-term goal, we want to go to the National Championship,” said coach Jay Ronayne. “That means we need to get our scores up a little bit higher.” 

Iowa State (1-2, 0-1 Big 12) won its first meet of the season with a victory against Iowa (2-4-1, 1-0-1 Big Ten) 194.900-194.550 Friday night, clinching the 2011-12 Cy-Hawk trophy with the win. 

Even with the win, Ronayne there is room to do better: “We have to be way better than what we showed tonight. … We had some improvements, but we need them from everybody. We have to fight hard in the gym so we don’t have to fight hard in competition.” 

The girls will be focused on the same goal as their coach: nationals. 

“I think we really want to try to be consistent and not count falls,” said senior Celine Paulus. “Obviously, in order to make it to nationals, we can’t count falls. Today I felt like we were a completely different team. The fire was there.”

A dying act in a dying sport.

Before the meet began Friday night at Hilton, the announcer was heard talking about the importance of sportsmanship.

The student section more than doubled from last week with the reward of a free T-shirt for the first 200 students. The non-student crowd grew with the action of an in-state rivalry.

The area that did not grow was the number of young girls that attended. 

As each team performed, the girls in the audience sang along to songs by Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber.

It did not matter if the girl who was performing was in black (Iowa) or cardinal (Iowa State). It did not matter if they fell or stuck their landing. The girls in the crowd clapped just as enthusiastically for each athlete. 

“[Sportmanship] is really important,” Paulus said. “Especially in gymnastics because it’s such a mental game.”

The girls who support both teams mean a lot to the gymnasts. 

“I really like meeting the little girls that come out,” said co-captain Elizabeth Stranahan earlier this year. “I remember being a younger gymnast and meeting college teams. It’s really exciting to be on the other side of the spectrum.”

An uncommon site in sports might consist of fans cheering for the other team when they score a touchdown or dunk the ball on a fast break, but when it comes to gymnastics there are other ways the girls look at things. 

“There’s no trash talking,” Paulus said. “It’s really important for us to support each other, because gymnastics is a dying sport.”