Big 12 Championships ‘just another meet’ for Iowa State gymnastics

Iowa State senior Haylee Young performs her beam routine during the Cyclones quad meet. Young scored a 9.900 en route to a 195.775 win over No. 19 Minnesota, Michigan State and UW-Stout. 

Austin Anderson

Iowa State gymnastics coach Jay Ronayne began this week of practice by flipping the page on the regular season. He stood in front of his team and told them, “Welcome to the postseason.”

The Cyclones are hosting the Big 12 Championships this Saturday at Hilton Coliseum. The postseason has begun, but it’s not in typical fashion.

Yes, the regular season has concluded for the Cyclones, but their score on Saturday will still go toward determining where they are placed in the regional competition in two weeks.

And yes, the Cyclones are facing three teams ranked higher than them for the first time all season with a Big 12 Championship on the line, but senior captain Kelsey Paz said it’s “just another meet.”

Iowa State wants to stay composed, so playing up the importance of the meet seems unlikely to help that. Most other meets, however, don’t include Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell and athletic director Jamie Pollard stopping by to show their support.

The two talked to the Cyclone gymnasts at the practice facility in Beyer Hall this week and let the team know a lot of Cyclone eyes will be watching and rooting for them as the season reaches its culmination.

“It’s amazing to have them here and showing their support,” Paz said. “Getting to have them come talk to us, I get even more pumped up.”

Campbell delivered the same motivation that led his own team to a strong turnaround last season. The Cyclones took away four key points from Campbell’s message. He told the team to never settle for easy and never settle for average.

He emphasized the gymnasts only get one opportunity at this postseason and reminded them their dreams and goals are never guaranteed.

“We’ve heard him talk to his players,” said senior Haylee Young. “How passionate he is about a family and being a Cyclone, to have him come in and say he’s backing us up is awesome.”

The added motivation could come in handy with No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 13 Denver and No. 25 West Virginia coming to Ames to take on No. 26 Iowa State.

The Cyclones had meets recently against some of the top competition in the country to prepare them for this point. Last week, the Cyclones put up a solid score of 196.075 against No. 11 Arkansas and Denver. The road meet before that wasn’t as favorable against current No. 3 UCLA and No. 14 Nebraska.

But the Cyclones have been able to use those meets as preparation.

“In its essence it was a rehearsal,” Ronayne said.

Iowa State already had its Senior Day when the Cyclones put up their best score in over a decade, a 196.700, in a home win over Iowa and Missouri. This weekend will be the last time the Cyclone seniors will compete in Hilton, but they’ve already done their celebrating. Young said she doesn’t even let the thought of it being her last time creep into her mind.

“There’s no point in doing that because it’s just another meet,” Young said. “Our time at Hilton is going to come to an end no matter what. Our gymnastics career is going to come to an end no matter what.

“We have to focus on enjoying the moment and doing the best we can for our team.”

The Cyclones are downplaying the importance of this Big 12 Championship and it’s fair to do. The Cyclones are undoubtedly regional qualifiers and there’s not an automatic bid on the line like in other sports.

Ronayne did admit, though, that there is more to Saturday than just another meet.

“It’s cool that the team does feel something that is a little different even though we’re trying to approach it as the same,” Ronayne said. “It’s not the same, but our routines are. The way we treat each routine is the same.”