Cyclones can prove they belong in gymnastics home opener

Kelsey Paz smiles during her floor routine Jan. 13 in Hilton Coliseum. Paz finished 1st all-around with a 38.975 during a tri-meet against Towson and UW-Oskosh. Iowa State won the meet with a score of 194.275.

Austin Anderson

Five minutes before the start of the Iowa State gymnastics season, head coach Jay Ronayne gathered the six gymnasts about to compete on the floor exercise.

He told them a story about how assistant coach Kristin White asked Ronayne a question on the bus ride to the arena.

“Are you nervous?” White asked.

Nerves filled his system in the years before because he felt his team wasn’t quite ready to compete. Last season, without a senior on the roster, he would have said yes.

But this year his answer was different.

“No, I’m not,” Ronayne responded. “I know exactly what’s going to happen. You’re prepared so you’re going to do great routines.

“But there is going to be a mistake here and there and you are going to be able to adapt because that’s the team you are.”

And there were mistakes. In fact, on the very first routine of the season, junior Meaghan Sievers had a slip up so rare, Ronayne called it an “anomaly.” But Ronayne was right, the team did bounce back and went on to have its best score to start a season since 2007.

The score of 195.175 pushed the Cyclones into the No. 12 ranking in the Road to Nationals poll. It also sets up one of the highest rated matchups in recent memory for the Cyclones when No. 10 Arizona comes to Hilton Coliseum on Friday night.

“I see Arizona as a very comparable team to us,” senior Haylee Young said. “We’ve competed against them in the past and I wouldn’t say they’re better than us. It’ll be a close meet. It’s going to be whoever is on their game.”

Young hasn’t been a part of a matchup this high in her time at Iowa State; nobody on the team has. But the Cyclones aren’t surprised to see such success so quickly.

“We are on schedule,” Sievers said. “We know we can even do better.”

Ronayne was surprised with Iowa State’s performance to open the season. Not that the team scored so well, but that the Cyclones didn’t hit on more routines than they did. He said the goal against Arizona and for every meet is for each routine to hit 9.800 or above.

This matchup provides another opportunity for the Cyclones to prove they belong amongst the top teams in the country. Last season, Iowa State missed qualifying for the national championships as a team and they aren’t shying away from that being their goal this year.

Everyone is back from that team and Ronayne said this team feels different from those in the past.

“I think we can set a new tone for our team,” Ronayne said. “I think our culture has changed over the last two years. It started last year and has continued into this year. We expect to win and we train accordingly. Everyone is very invested in what they do.”