‘The most rewarding job I have ever had:’ Jay Ronayne’s path to coaching Iowa State

Head Coach Jay Ronayne talks to Sophomore Molly Russ before she stars her floor routine during the Iowa State, Iowa and Missouri tri-meet. the cyclones won with a team score of 196.700 points.  

Nash Vanbibber

What started when Jay Ronayne was 14 in his backyard became a lifelong passion for the 13-year Iowa State gymnastics coach.

Ronayne has coached multiple All-Americans, two Big 12 Gymnasts of the Year, a Big 12 Event Specialist of the Year, a pair of Big 12 Newcomers of the Year and has even guided Cyclone gymnasts seven times to the NCAA National Championships in the all-around.

Since Ronayne took over in 2006, the Cyclones have qualified for the NCAA Regional in 11 of its last 12 seasons. Ronayne has even coached eight Big 12 individual champions.

Ronayne was named the head coach at Iowa State on July 5, 2006. Ronayne came to Iowa State after four successful seasons as the top assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Auburn. Ronayne was the assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Auburn University for 17 years prior to Iowa State.

Ronayne was also the top assistant at West Virginia University. He helped the team to eight conference titles, 13 Regional appearances, and three NCAA Championship appearances.

He helped make Auburn a top 20 team during his time at the university, but after much success at there, it was time for him to move on.

Ronayne said he wanted to be able to run his own program.

“The biggest payoff of being a head coach is that I do not have a boss and that I don’t have to answer to anyone but myself,” Ronayne said.

Ronayne became interested in the sport of gymnastics at the age of eight and started teaching gymnastics at the age of 14. Ronayne began doing flips in his own backyard. One of his mom’s friends had a gymnastic gym and let Ronayne join.

“I love the sport of gymnastics because it is the most challenging sport I have ever tried in my life,” Ronayne said. “The sport is so unique and that is why it attracted me.”

Ronayne said the most rewarding thing about being a coach is shaping the future of athletes through sports.

“I love being able to spend my time with young people, develop their skills and minds and to shape their future through sports,” Ronayne said.

Ronayne joined the Cyclone family in 2006 and has been in love with the program ever since.

“Iowa State was always on my radar, I knew the team was always dangerous and they could be a top 20 team in the country,” Ronayne said. “I decided to come here because the circumstances were just right for me.

“Being a coach is the most rewarding job I have ever had in my life, it is great to see the progress of so many people.”

Back in 2013, Ronayne and the Cyclones had one of the best postseasons runs in program history. Michelle Shealy finished fifth on the balance beam event at the NCAA Championships, marking the highest finish in Cyclone history on beam.

“Being able to see greatness and unlocking their full potential is the biggest payoff,” Ronayne said.

Senior Sydney Converse met Ronayne when she was eight years old and the two have worked together ever since.

Converse said Ronayne taught her everything she knows.

“Jay has been by my side for basically my whole life and is a great role model and he makes me want to be the best gymnast I can be,” Converse said.

During the 2018 gymnastic season Converse had to sit out due to a torn Achilles. In the 2017 season, she competed in the final seven meets of the season after recovering from an ankle injury.

“It was devastating to miss the whole year especially tearing my Achilles,” Converse said. “But coming back this year I have a whole new perspective on the sport. My teammates and coach Ronayne helped me come back from my injuries and always persuaded me during the bad times.”

Converse said her teammates and coaching staff were her rock during the time of her rehab.

The Iowa State Cyclones will have their last home meet of the 2018 season at 6:30 p.m. Friday against No. 5 Denver. Senior night will take place during intermission of the meet. The four seniors that will be graduating on the team include Converse, Madeline Johnson, Kelly Martin and Meaghan Sievers.