Takeaways: Gymnastics losing a lot but coming back for more

Redshirt senior Sydney Converse competes during Iowa State’s match against the University of Iowa on March 6.

Jordan Swanson

With its season unexpectedly cut short, the Iowa State gymnastics team will be done competing for the remainder of the year. The Cyclones will finish ranked No. 20 in the nation with a record of 8-7. 

Graduating seniors

Iowa State will graduate seniors Laura Burns, Sydney Converse, Casandra Diaz and Molly Russ. All four gymnasts have excelled in both competition and the classroom during their time at Iowa State. 

The Cyclones will miss the leadership these seniors provided. All four have played vital roles when it comes to mentoring underclassmen and setting the culture of the team.

“I tell the younger girls it is OK to mess up and don’t ever be scared to make mistakes because those kinds of things happen. It is not a big deal and that is how we learn,” Diaz said. “It is important for them to know that we trust them, and we love them no matter what.”

The seniors have made their mark while at Iowa State, especially during their senior season. Competing in a combination of events, they were a huge reason the Cyclones were ranked in the top-25 nationally for the majority of the year.

“The energy was different, in a positive way,” Converse said. “We all had each other’s back, and while that has been true in the past it was just different this year. We believed more in ourselves and we just kept building off of each other and everyone’s energy to keep climbing that mountain.”

Newcomers made their mark

Another reason this season was seen as a successful one is due to the boost Iowa State got from newcomers to the program. Junior Andrea Maldonado and freshman Jade Vella-Wright flourished during their first year competing for Cyclones.

Maldonado came to Iowa State after competing for the National Gymnastics Team of Puerto Rico. It took some adjusting at first, but once she got settled, Maldonado was a huge reason the Cyclones were competitive in every meet. 

“Here you don’t spend as much time training, but you still have to push every day and make the best out of every single rep,” Maldonado said. “Unlike elite, you are competing thirteen or more weekends in a row. So, you have to be smart and take care of your body.”

Maldonado would finish the season ranked in the top 10 in the nation on the floor, posting a 9.950 or higher four times this season. She would also take home four Big 12 weekly awards over the course of the season.

Vella-Wright came to Iowa State from Australia in January 2020. Before competing for the Cyclones, Vella-Wright competed for Waverley Gymnastics Centre and was a member of the Australian National Team.

Vella-Wright competed several times on both beam and bars this year for Iowa State. She would also go on to earn Big 12 Newcomer of the Week in week seven against Texas Women’s University after posting her second straight 9.900 on bars.

“Coming in second semester was not the easiest thing, all the girls were so supportive and were always boosting my confidence,” Vella-Wright said. “They were all really good role models to look up to.”