Freshman year culminates in NCAA appearance


Photo: Zhenru Zhang/Iowa State Daily

Michelle Shealy performs an aerial trick in her beam routine during the meet against the University of Iowa on Friday at Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones defeated the Hawkeyes 196.350 – 195.850.

Dylan Montz

As freshman Michelle Shealy walked past the gymnastics practice facility in Beyer Hall on Monday afternoon, she crossed paths with ISU coach Jay Ronayne.

“I thought I told you that I didn’t want to see you today and to take a day’s rest,” Ronayne said jokingly.

They laughed together and walked on. It was a busy weekend for the pair as they had returned from the NCAA National Championships at 1:30 a.m. Monday from Cleveland.

Over the weekend, Shealy made her NCAA National Championship debut, scoring a 39.025 in the all-around competition and placing 13th in her session. Ronayne was pleased with the performances Shealy gave throughout the competition.

“I’m very, very proud of her,” Ronayne said. “She did it exactly as we anticipated she would. She has just been a very consistent performer all year and did exactly that.”

Ronayne’s pride in Shealy was only strengthened by the fact that she missed becoming an All-American in the balance beam by .025 points and fully believes she can accomplish that next year.

As for Shealy, her first experience on the biggest stage at the collegiate level was a thrilling one.

“It was so much fun,” Shealy said. “Just to be there and compete was great. I didn’t put too much pressure on myself because I was just going out there to have fun and do my best, so it was just great.”

Since the teams Shealy competed against at nationals were the best in the country, she tried to zone in on the task at hand while also enjoying the moment.

Since Shealy was the lone Cyclone at the national competition, the bye rounds between her events were a bit of a different feeling for her. Fortunately though, Ronayne said, she was put in the locker room with the University of Nebraska. Ronayne said this was a great fit as the Cornhusker team approaches gymnastics technique similarly to Iowa State.

“It really helped her a lot,” Ronayne said. “They really did embrace her as one of their own, so that was kind of cool to see.”

As Shealy’s first season came to a close over the weekend on the highest level, she said she can’t believe how quickly it has gone.

“It flew by,” Shealy said. “I was actually just talking about that with [Ronayne] and it is just crazy to think about how my freshman year is almost over. It has just been a lot of fun.”

Ronayne said the past season has gone by just as quickly for him.

“It really just seems like yesterday that she walked on campus for the first time as a freshman, and that was in June that that happened,” Ronayne said. “That is mainly because this has been such a fun year.”

Shealy will now get some time off after a successful first season, but Ronayne said it won’t be long before she’s back in the gym working on improving her skills for what he hopes will be three more seasons with even greater success.

Ronayne is also anticipating Shealy will one day become a team captain and attain All-American status.

“It’s in her blood,” Ronayne said. “If you would ask her who she is, she would say, ‘I’m a gymnast.’ And a gymnast is in the gym. She will be here no matter if any of her coaches or teammates are. She will be there.”