Pristine floor rotation gives Cyclones win on Senior Night

Iowa State senior Kelsey Paz performs her beam routine during the Cyclones quad meet. Paz scored a 9.800 en route to a 195.775 win over No. 19 Minnesota, Michigan State and UW-Stout. 

Noah Rohlfing

The Cyclones had all eyes on them, and that’s exactly what they wanted. 

With three gymnasts left to complete their floor routines, both of Iowa State’s opponents, No. 19 Missouri and Iowa, had finished their remaining rotations.

So, with 2,382 fans and both opponents watching, Cyclone seniors Briana Ledesma, Kelsey Paz and Haylee Young pushed Iowa State to victory. 

Iowa State finished the meet with a score of 196.700, matching the highest point total under head coach Jay Ronayne (that previous high came in a 2007 tri-meet with Iowa and Denver). 

From the opening intros to the final “Thank You” video, the seniors were the focus of Friday’s meet. The seniors were “lost” after the rest of the Cyclones had been introduced, only appearing in the stands after 45 seconds or so of intense (and scripted) searching. The Hilton Coliseum crowd went wild, sounding eager to pay homage to a group of gymnasts that will leave a huge impact on the Iowa State program. 

Paz said that the atmosphere was “magical” on Friday night. 

“I just tried to soak everything in with my teammates,” Paz said. “Every single turn I took just felt surreal, but it was amazing.”

At the beginning of the meet, though, it didn’t appear as if the Cyclones were going to get their fairytale ending. 

Early mistakes, including a fall on the beam from Young, left the Cyclones in the heat of the battle against an in-state rival and a top-25 opponent heading into the all-important final rotation. 

Ronayne said that the Cyclones’ early mistakes got him nervous. 

“First event, we started with a fall,” Ronayne said. “How’s that for setting a tone?

“Going to the floor, I still had apprehensions.”

Those “little mistakes,” as Ronayne called them, were soon rendered unimportant by a floor rotation that saw five Cyclone competitors tie or set a personal record. 

The floor routines began with a 9.875 from sophomore Molly Russ. She was followed by junior Meaghan Sievers, who set a personal best on the floor with a 9.900 that lifted the roof off of Hilton and signaled to the Cyclones gymnasts that this could be their night.

Sievers said that the Cyclones “absolutely” were competing for their senior teammates.

“They were like ‘don’t do it for us, we’re doing this as a team,'” Sievers said. “I was just really proud that we could get this done for them.”

After another 9.875 from freshman (and former Olympian) Ariana Orrego, three seniors stepped up to the mat for the final time in the regular season.

First up was Ledesma, a native of San Antonio, Texas, and the only Cyclone not to tie or set a personal record on the night in the floor routine. She did, however, score a 9.875 and put the Cyclones in a prime position for victory. 

Next up was Paz. The Sioux City, Iowa, native performed her favorite event in a way she described as “unreal” and tied her career-best with a 9.875, essentially sealing victory for Iowa State. 

With victory all but secured, Young stepped into the spotlight. The West Des Moines, Iowa, native, has become synonymous with Cyclone Gymnastics over the past four seasons. 

Young described Senior Night as a “weird” experience that flew by, but she was ready for the moment. 

Young had the best floor routine of the night, scoring a 9.925 and tying her personal record (which just happens to be the school record as well).

When Young was asked about the routine, she credited her teammates with firing her up. 

“I was so proud of them,” Young said. “So to be able to come through for them was really what I wanted to do.” 

The crowd went crazy, putting a final exclamation point on a night that the Cyclone gymnasts didn’t want to end.