Final regular season meet carries a lot of importance for Iowa State gymnastics

Iowa State sophomore Casandra Diaz performs her beam routine during the Cyclones quad meet. Diaz scored a 9.200 en route to a 195.775 win over No. 19 Minnesota, Michigan State and UW-Stout. 

Austin Anderson

The Iowa State gymnastics regular season will be over after this weekend, but the importance of the Cyclones’ regular season finale is large.

The meet in Fayetteville, Arkansas, on Friday against No. 15 Denver and No. 11 Arkansas is the Cyclones’ last chance to add to their regional qualifying score, which determines their seeding at the NCAA regional competition.

Six teams are in each of the six regionals, totaling 36 teams total. Coach Jay Ronayne said the team wants to get to No. 24 in order to get a four-seed.

“Because we’re a subjective sport, the officials view in this little pigeon hole,” Ronayne said. “Being a five or six-seed, you’re viewed differently than a one or two-seed. That alone matters. If you go in as a fifth-seed, you’re probably not going to finish in a one or two position.”

The Cyclones currently sit at No. 26, their first time outside of the top-25 all season. The Cyclones will need one of their strongest performances of the year in order to jump up two sports.

Iowa State does have a fortunate opportunity being on the road. Away scores are a big deal because of the RQS. Three of the six scores counted have to be somewhere other than your home venue. Ronayne said any away score is gold.

“It’s incredibly important,” Ronayne said. “We want to be in the top 24 at the end of the season. Going into the NCAA regional we want to be there, that’s a big deal for us. To do that we need another away score that is big.”

The regional qualifying score is scored by taking each team’s top six scores, three of which have to be on the road. The remaining three scores can be from anywhere. Then, the highest score is removed and the final five scores are averaged.

The Cyclones are essentially aiming for a score this weekend high enough that it won’t even count.

“In a perfect world it’s higher than our highest score yet so we can count that top score,” Ronayne said.

The advantage of being a four-seed is in the way the rotations go. There are six teams competing on four events meaning there are two byes throughout competition. The five-seed sits out in the final rotation. The third and four-seeds do not.

“The last thing you want to do in a gymnastics meet is to be on a bye in the last rotation because scores naturally escalate just a little bit,” Ronayne said. “You want to be competing on that last rotation determining your future, not sitting there watching it unfold as other teams are taking advantage of scores escalating.”

The meet has heightened importance after the Cyclones failed to deliver a big score in their most recent road meet at Nebraska. Iowa State did already bounce back last weekend when the Cyclones scored 196.700, which tied the highest score in Ronayne’s tenure.

Still, the team hasn’t been on the road since it put up a 195.575 in Nebraska.

“It was a definite learning experience,” said senior Briana Ledesma. “Scoring-wise it set us back a bit but I think we gained a lot in experience. I think it also grounded people.

“It put as back into focus because when we got knocked off we’re like, ‘yeah we’ve been making these gains but we just got humbled a bit.’ Now it’s time to refocus and get better.”

The other element that has caught the eye of the Cyclones is that Friday is Arkansas’ senior night.

“We’re going into a meet where they picked us to be a team that’s easy to beat,” Ledesma said. “Honestly we’re not there to compete against ourselves. We’re basically saying ‘hi, we’re using your arena to get a big score.’ So you do whatever you need to do. You give your seniors a big tribute but we don’t care about that. We’re just here to do our job.”