Iowa State gymnastics generating ‘whispers’ after top-10 win

Members of the Iowa State gymnastics team compete during the first home meet of the season against Arizona Jan. 12 in Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones defeated the Wildcats 195.45 to 194.975.

Austin Anderson

The No. 12 Iowa State gymnastics team had the lead midway through Friday night’s meet, 97.800-97.500 over No. 10 Arizona,  heading into the balance beam. The Cyclones had been impressive through the first half of the meet but their lead certainly wasn’t insurmountable.

Two freshmen, Sophia Steinmeyer and Ariana Orrego, started off the event well but junior M.J. Johnson had to repeat a couple skills after missing a required connection on the beam, resulting in a 9.450. Senior Kelsey Paz got the Cyclones back on track with a 9.825 before junior Meaghan Sievers fell of the beam in the middle of her routine.

Coach Jay Ronayne wasn’t watching Arizona, so he wasn’t exactly sure of the Wildcats score. He didn’t know which direction the meet would go. Last season, when adversity hit during meets, the Cyclones weren’t always able to bounce back. But this team hadn’t been tested yet.

“I thought it was going to go [in a negative direction],“ Ronayne said. “I was doing some quick math in my head, thinking ‘if they’re doing what they’re capable of, we may have just lost the lead.’”

And the Cyclones might have, but with one more routine left on beam, senior Haylee Young stepped up.

She recorded a 9.925, tying her career high.

“We all train to have each other’s back,” Young said. “It’s a four-inch beam, you’re going to fall sometimes. Meaghan is amazing at beam, it’s just something that happens. Honestly, I wasn’t thinking too differently than I normally do.”

The Cyclones finished with a 48.725 on the beam and maintained a lead they wouldn’t give up, 195.450-194.975.

It was the first home meet of the season for the Cyclones but the first home meet of the careers of the freshmen.

Friday night saw the debut of freshman Natalia Ros Vaquer, who only got to Ames a few weeks ago after moving from Spain. She scored a 9.600 on floor after stepping out of bounds. Orrego performed only two routines after feeling under the weather, according to Ronayne.

Steinmeyer had two successful events in her home debut.

“It was amazing,” Steinmeyer said. “It was so much fun.”

It was the first home opener for some and the last for others.

“Hilton is my favorite place,” Young said. “I am so lucky and grateful to compete in a place like Hilton.

“Not many people get this opportunity so I just let myself do what I do and have fun with it because it’s going to be over soon than later.”

This win improves Iowa State to 4-0 on the season. It was the Cyclones’ highest score of the season and third win over top-20 teams. Yet, Ronayne isn’t ready to say this team has made a statement.

“I don’t know about a statement,” Ronayne said. “Maybe a bit of a whisper. A whisper that we’re here and we’re going to be a lot better than we are right now as long as things continue the way we think they are going to.

“We’ll make a statement when we score mid-196.”

If people in college gymnastics haven’t taken notice yet, Young wants to be a part of the group that makes sure they do.

“People aren’t going to look yet,” Young said. “We have to keep being consistent to make them look and I’m thankful for that. I want to be someone who helped build an awesome program. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”