Cyclone gymnastics face their hardest test yet at No. 7 Auburn

Iowa State senior Andrea Maldonado performs in the floor exercise in the Cyclones’ meet against the University of Nebraska on Jan. 7.

Christian Royston

After dropping the first two meets of the 2022 season, the Iowa State gymnastics team is looking to get the ball rolling in the right direction as it heads to Alabama to take on No. 7 Auburn on Friday. This will be the first true road meet for the Cyclones and will be their toughest test yet.

Auburn is coming off a close, hard-fought meet against No. 11 Arkansas, where a win saw the Tigers rise in the rankings to No. 7. The Tigers put up their highest season score so far, taking down the Razorbacks 197.250-197.200. 

The road trip to Auburn, Ala., will be a homecoming of sorts for Iowa State Head Coach Jay Ronayne. From 2003 to 2006, Ronayne served as Auburn’s top assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. Ronayne’s four years at Auburn were close to, if not the most productive period in the school’s history.

The Tigers reached the NCAA Regionals in all four years and competed in the NCAA Championships in 2003. They also ranked top-20 in the nation for three out of those four years. Before Ronayne’s tenure, they had gone six consecutive seasons ranking outside the top-20. 

In the 2022 season, Auburn has averaged a score of 196.650 to Iowa State’s 194.213. The Cyclones scored a season-high score of 194.350 in the year’s opening meet, which falls a couple of points short of Auburn’s average.

So far this season, Iowa State has gotten close to winning both of their meets but come up just short. It was clear in the opener against Nebraska that there were beginning of the year nerves that needed to be shaken off.

The Cyclones came back from behind thanks to strong floor routines, but a miscommunication with the order on the last event caused them to fall to Nebraska after a last-minute point deduction.

Iowa State looked to bounce back from the loss at home with strong performances against Temple at the Chow’s Winter Classic. However, due to falls on the last two events, the Cyclones could not defeat Temple, dropping to 0-2 on the season. Although starting the season with a pair of losses is not ideal, there were great glimmers of hope in the Iowa State lineup.

There were questions about how good the Cyclones would be at each event coming into the season. Vault and bars were expected to be just as good as they have been in the past, and the Cyclones have shown that there is nothing to worry about this season either.

The Cyclones have been consistent on both events and even scored season highs on both vault and bars at the Chow’s Winter Classic. A great surprise for the team has been how poised, and consistent the freshmen have been. The freshmen have been improving each meet, with Josie Bergstrom leading the Cyclones at vault with a high score of 9.825.

Another area that the team has been working on in the offseason was improving the consistency and quality of the floor routines. Floor was Iowa State’s worst event last season, but improvements were expected to have been made.

Ronayne came into the season hyped about how the team has progressed and even said that floor could go from their worst event to their best.

Although floor has been the third-best event so far, the season’s highest individual scores occurred on the floor. There have been three 9.900 scores coming from the floor event, two of those coming from junior Maddie Diab’s routines.

The other freshman making waves at the meets was Hannah Loyim, who recorded her first floor performance against Temple. The Cyclones were excited to have Loyim compete in the rotations and compete as an all-around gymnast. She has been consistently improving meet to meet and has been the lone all-around scorer for the Cyclones in the 2022 season.

It can be difficult to transition from club gymnastics to the collegiate level, but Loyim seems to improve and become more comfortable at each event. Both Bergstrom and Loyim set new career-highs at each event they competed in at the Chow’s Winter Classic. 

The one event that has been giving the Cyclones trouble has been the balance beam. The beam has been the worst event for the Cyclones by a good margin this year, so it should be a main focusing point for the team as they prepare for the meet against Auburn.

The Tigers should be a good test for Iowa State.

Iowa State is set to take on No. 7 Auburn at 7 p.m. Jan. 21, at Auburn, Ala.