Shealy strives for success


File photo: Zunkai Zhao/Iowa State Daily

Michelle Shealy participates in the balance beam during the Friday, Jan. 7 meet with Auburn at Hilton Coliseum. Shealy helped the Cyclones defeat the Tigers 193.475 – 192.775.

Dylan Montz

Every child, at some point, discovers a love for something and pursues it. Whether that is something such as music, learning, or sports, kids find something that they have a passion for and want to work hard to perfect.

For ISU freshman Michelle Shealy, her passion from a young age has been gymnastics.

Shealy’s father, Nelson Shealy, had been a gymnast so Michelle always had kind of a natural ability when it came to gymnastics recalled Shealy’s mother, Amy Shealy.

“Her older sister was in gymnastics but more for recreational purposes and Michelle always thought it looked liked fun,” Amy Shealy said. “She began taking classes at 4 years old and it was always something that was fun for her. She just loved to go.”

As Shealy began learning more skills, her competitiveness became more apparent and by age 7, she had started doing gymnastics for competition.

She would also attend camps held by her club gymnastics organization, Gwinnett Gymnastics Center. It was at one of those camps when Shealy was about 12 years old, that she first met coach Jay Ronayne.

“I was coaching at the camp and I recognized her name and said ‘Oh yeah, she is a junior elite gymnast,'” Ronayne said. “After working with her at the camp I said to myself, ‘I’m going to keep an eye on that kid, she could be a really good gymnast.'”

The connection was also bolstered by the fact that Ronayne had coached one of Shealy’s club coaches when he was an assistant at Auburn University. And for Shealy, the feeling of respect she had for Ronayne was a strong one.

“When [Ronayne] would come back to camps, I was always looking forward to him helping me out because I just liked him so much as a person and a coach so when the recruiting process started, I was really excited to make a trip to Iowa and see what Iowa State had to offer,” Michelle Shealy said.

When Shealy was a junior in high school, she and Ronayne were finally able to have an eligible written correspondence to discuss a visit to Iowa State.

“I told her that I would love to coach her and that we wanted to get her to Iowa to show that Iowa State would be a great place for her,” Ronayne said.

However, Shealy’s mother, Amy was a little skeptical about taking a recruiting visit to Iowa because of the distance from the Shealy’s home in Snellville, Ga.

“Iowa was just so far away to go out and visit and at one point I even thought we could maybe just write it off the list,” Amy Shealy said.

“But we did take a visit to Iowa State and when I met the coaches and saw the campus, I thought that this place is just really nice and I could see now why she was so excited. We just felt really comfortable about it.”

The recruiting process was not quite over for the Shealys yet, because they still had to take visits to SEC schools because of the proximity to home.

They also took visits to the University of Michigan, Ohio State University, and the University of Denver.

Shealy let Ronayne know of her decision to attend Iowa State in December of her junior year and cites that the ‘family atmosphere’ was also one of the bigger things attracting her to Ames.

“I knew Jay beforehand, so that was a major plus but when I got here, I noticed how the whole team worked together and there weren’t any groups or cliques within that. They were all just so unified,” Michelle Shealy said.

Shealy arrived in Ames in the summer of 2010 to begin the summer-bridge program which gives student athletes an opportunity to take classes through Iowa State and also to begin training for their sport.

When Shealy first started training, Ronayne noticed that her bar routine may not be consistent enough for collegiate competition. Her vault and floor routines, Ronayne observed, were very strong and her beam, he said, was outstanding.

Shealy had been a national champion on the balance beam and that continues to be her favorite event.

Shealy listened to the coach’s advice on what she needed to correct with her bar routine and fixed her mistakes very quickly and Ronayne said there was no doubt in his mind that she would be ready for all-around competition when meets began in January.

When the season was finally underway, Shealy found success in competition early on. Throughout the season, she was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week three times, Big 12 Gymnast of the Week one time, and at Big 12 Championships on March 19, she was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Year.

After competing at the Big 12 Championships, the Cyclones traveled to Ann Arbor, Mich. where Shealy was the only National Championship qualifier from the No. 21 ISU team.

Shealy originally placed fifth in the all-around but after scores of athletes who were on qualifying teams were taken out, she moved up to second place and became the lone qualifier for the Cyclones.

Shealy said that she understands that she is representing Iowa State at Nationals and is sad that her team can’t compete with her, but is still thrilled with the opportunity to compete for her school.

“I was just so excited when I heard that I had made it,” Michelle Shealy said. “I actually didn’t know until a little while after just because I was a little confused with all of the rules and how you can make it but when I found out, I was just super excited.”

Ronayne said that he could not be more proud of what Shealy has accomplished this year competing for Iowa State and that it is very satisfying to him as a person to see this athlete, who he has known since she was a 12-year-old, meet expectations that she has set for herself.

Amy Shealy will be traveling to Cleveland, Ohio, on Friday to watch her daughter compete for a National Championship and said she is so proud of all that her daughter has accomplished.

“I am amazed but not surprised by her success,” Amy Shealy said. “I know who she is as a person and being successful is what she strives to accomplish.”

Ronayne anticipates an even more prolific season next year from Shealy.

“She is just going to be an even better all-arounder next year,” Ronayne said. “She has tons of confidence on every event and now has all of the experience to be successful. Now she has to work on consistency and polishing up the little things that will make her a champion. She has a very bright future.”

With three years left for Shealy’s eligibility, her future is looking very bright, indeed, starting with an appearance in the NCAA Championships, which begin Friday.