Iowa State gymnastics returns to place where its ‘season began’ for first time

Iowa State senior Haylee Young celebrates following her floor routine. Young posted a 9.825 on the event as the Cyclones took the quad meet with a score of 195.775. 

Austin Anderson

April 1, 2017, was an important day for the Iowa State gymnastics team.

The Cyclones were in Lincoln, Nebraska, for the NCAA regionals. If Iowa State could put up either the first or second highest score out of the six teams there, the Cyclones would make an appearance at the NCAA national championship.

But the dream ended quickly. The first two gymnasts to compete that day for Iowa State fell on the balance beam, essentially ending the Cyclones’ season before the regional competition really got started.

Eleven months have passed since that first day in April. Despite what the schedule says, coach Jay Ronayne said he doesn’t remember the time when his first two gymnasts fell off the beam as the moment the 2017 season came to an end. He remembers it as the moment the 2018 season began.

“We had to count one of those falls, but everyone nailed everything from there on,” Ronayne said. “It was like ‘Now we know we’re actually that good’ even though we had that mistake we couldn’t overcome.

“They know how much better we are than we were a year ago, and we were awfully close last year [to going to the national championship].”

Since that moment, the Cyclones have gone 15-2 and held a consistent ranking in the top 25.

This weekend, the Cyclones will return to Lincoln, Nebraska for the first time since the 2017 season sealed its fate and the focus turned to 2018. The No. 23 Cyclones will have a tough challenge going against No. 2 UCLA, No. 16 Nebraska and Kent State in a quad meet on Sunday.

The talent level is high, almost reminiscent of a regional competition, which is how Ronayne said he is treating the meet.

“It’s a rehearsal for what we will see at the regional or at the national championship,” Ronayne said. “Nebraska is really good. UCLA, what are they currently, second? They’re really good. Kent, at any moment, can be really good. It’s going to be a great competition. We’ll see how we stack up.

“I feel, right now, that we are very, very, very competitive with all of them that are there.”

The Cyclones took down three teams last Friday night, including No. 19 Minnesota. After the meet, senior Haylee Young said it was a good measuring stick to show where the Cyclones are at.

This weekend, the Cyclones will face a Nebraska team that bares similarities to Minnesota, coming from the Big Ten and being in the top-20. Young said she feels the same way.

“I think we’re fully capable [of beating Nebraska],” Young said. “We’re starting to believe that. Beating them would be huge for us. Going there and hitting and getting a great score, even if we didn’t beat them, would be huge. But we want to walk away with a win over them at least.”

In the second meet of last weekend, the Cyclones achieved a goal that has eluded them all year. They finally hit all 24 of their routines, which resulted in a brand new season high.

“It was awesome,” sophomore Molly Russ said. “That’s been our goal the whole season, so to finally do it, we were really proud of ourselves.”

The emphasis moving forward will hone in on sticking landings for Iowa State. Ronayne estimated the team left somewhere between .800-1.100 points on the board by not sticking landings, despite scoring a season high 196.450, which would have conceivably put the Cyclones above a score of 197.

“I think we have a score of 197, 197-plus, just waiting to happen,” Ronayne said. “It’s right around the corner, that’s how close I feel we are. It could be this weekend. It could be next weekend. But we are so optimistic that it will happen.”