No. 20 Cyclones prepare for first long road trip


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.

Chris Cuellar

No. 20 Iowa State has gotten into a rhythm; progressing positively at Hilton Coliseum through three meets with young gymnasts stepping into important rules.

That routine is about to get shaken up.

The Cyclones (2-1, 1-1 in Big 12) are heading to Provo, Utah, to take on Brigham Young, No. 16 Southern Utah and Utah State on Saturday in a quadrangular for their first road meet of the season.

“I think our start has been really good, because we’ve improved our score every meet and we’ve improved our confidence every meet,” said senior Alex Grant. “We’re really excited.”

Provo is home to BYU, but the Cyclones will be the only true road team south of Salt Lake City on Saturday afternoon.

“We’ve been home the last three weeks — and its been fun being with our home crowd and everything — but I’m just excited to get out and travel and see new areas and compete,” said freshman all-around Michelle Shealy.

Despite the distance between Iowa State and the western programs, the 16th-ranked Thunderbirds will be the only new opponents for the Cyclones. BYU and Iowa State met in last year’s NCAA West Regional, with Iowa State coming out on top and Utah State was an opponent in the 2005 NCAA Central Regional.

Neither match-up was in Utah, and even though some Cyclone gymnasts visited the state for recruiting visits, the team is excited for the popular skiing destination.

“I love the mountains, and its kind of nice because it’s so different from Iowa,” Grant said. “And it’s going to be a little warmer than here so I’m looking forward to that.”

Besides the change in scenery, the shift in formats will be the largest adjustment for the Cyclones. The squad is used to the home meet alignment, with Iowa State starting on vault, moving to bars, then beam and finally the floor exercise.

Having four teams cycle through each event will be sensory overload worthy of the “Beauty and the Beast” event Jan. 21.

Iowa State will start on the balance beam, move to floor exercise, then vault and finish on the uneven bars.

Then the score will be placed head-to-head with the other teams and count as three competitions, doubling Iowa State’s current season count.

“We’re always ready, but it is a little different,” Grant said. “It is an adjustment but we’re going to walk in mentally ready to start with beam so we should be good.”

Four different Cyclones currently hold the season-high scores for the four events. That balance combined with strong performances from all-arounders Michelle Browning and Shealy puts the Cyclones in strong contention to make some noise in their first away meet.

“The score is more important but just knowing that you’ve just beat somebody makes us all the more excited,” Shealy said. “To have a good score along with that win just adds on top of it.”

Saturday’s meet begins at 1 p.m. CST in Provo.