‘Tunnel vision’: Cyclone gymnastics lands first victory of season


Jacob Rice

Hannah Loyim performs in the floor exercise in the Cyclones’ gymnastics meet against the University of Iowa on March 4, 2022.

Andrea Maldonado, Sports Reporter

Iowa State gymnastics has endured hurdles left and right over the past few years until now. But from attitude to preparation the Cyclones had made a statement that the 2023 season will be different. Their mission strives for “tunnel vision.”

“This mission is all about looking forward and disregarding all the noise and distractions that are on the sides. There’s nothing in the way,” Iowa State’s head coach Jay Ronayne said. “If you have a goal, keep your eyes on it and go for it.”

The competition was close but the Iowa State Cyclones gained their first victory of the season with a team score of 194.875 against the Northern Illinois Huskies who scored 194.775 on Saturday.

The season opener began with strong vaults from individuals all around the roster. After losing a significant number of seniors from the 2022 season, the Cyclones brought new faces to step up to the plate. Variety was a virtue for the Cyclones, as it created depth and reliability in their lineup. 

Junior Kaia Parker led the Cyclones in the vault rotation landing a new career-high of 9.875. Following Parker, Maddie Diab made her senior debut in the event, scoring a career-high 9.800. Other contributors of the lineup were Emily Hong and Ana Irene Palacios both scoring 9.775, Kelsey Boychuck with a 9.750 and Josie Bergstrom with a 9.700. 

“I haven’t vaulted since high school, but it was awesome to see so many girls have an opportunity to do exhibitions and get some experience. We have a long season ahead of us and a lot of combinations of lineups,” senior Natalie Horowitz said. 

In the sport of gymnastics, it is common for unpredictable mistakes to happen. The Cyclones experienced several hurdles during their bar rotation that amped up the pressure against the Huskies. However, it was not for a lack of effort but rather too much power. 

The rotation was led by Maddy Langkamp, a returning senior, who not only has battled her way back from a season-ending injury last year, but has continued to make herself a consistent opener for the bar lineup. In her return to the lineup, Langkamp scored 9.825.

According to Ronayne and assistant coach Haylee Young, the team was acknowledged for demonstrating their desire to hit all the details in their routines instead of holding back. 

“They had a lot of bottled up ‘what if’s’ but being able to compete will boost their confidence moving forward,” Young said. 

In the 2022 season, the Cyclones struggled to maintain their stability on balance beam during the Chow’s Classic, but that was not a repeated scenario coming into the third rotation. In a conversation with Jay Ronayne, he expressed how they approached the subject of last year with humor during podium practice. 

The team was confident and determined to leave the past where it belongs. Ronayne also mentioned how having fun every day during the preseason has shaped their team culture and bond altogether. 

Sophomore Hannah Loyim took the lead with a 9.875. Followed by Lauren Thomas and Josie Bergstrom who relieved some pressure as both scored 9.850 for the Cyclones. Natalie Horowitz followed up with a 9.825 and Alondra Maldonado sealed the rotation with a 9.750. This beam lineup gave Iowa State the momentum it needed to go into the fourth rotation and seal the competition in their favor. 

The Cyclones are known to always bring out a party when they step on the floor. Across the lineup every routine served as a boost for the next one. Leading up to Maddie Diab who led the team to victory, scoring a 9.925. 

“We are going to have a lot of momentum rolling out of this meet, especially coming to Hilton next week,” Young said. “We have a lot of returners who bring experience, and having their leadership on the competition floor is essential”.

Iowa State has a long season ahead of them but the main goal is to have fun and let their work come to life. 

“When it comes down to predicting whether we might get to top 36 or top 20, it becomes difficult to do so because the scores are up to the judges, not up to the girls,” associate head coach Nilson Savage said. “We have a lot of growing to do but we are looking forward to putting on a good show to the audiences that come to see us so everyone is able to have fun and have a good experience.” 

Up next, the Cyclones will have their first home meet of the season as they face Eastern Michigan and UC Davis at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 20 in Ames. The competition will also be streamed live on ESPN+.