Iowa State has opportunity to bounce back after loss to Iowa

Kelsey Paz jumps during her beam routine. The Cyclones won their tri-meet on Feb. 17 against Illinois State and Gustavus with a score of 195.625.

Austin Anderson

Iowa State gymnastics had its best start of the season through the first three events last Saturday on the road against Iowa.

The Cyclones averaged a 49.100 for the first three events, putting them on pace to significantly break their season high with just the balance beam remaining.

The Cyclones’ success might have actually been what doomed them in the loss to the Hawkeyes.

“They kind of competed scared,” associate head coach Katie Minasola said. “They were trying so hard to be perfect and they were not doing what we normally do. We added that pressure because we were beating Iowa going into the fourth event. Usually we have a mistake in the first or second event and we rock the second half of the meet. It was kind of a new challenge for us.”

Now the Cyclones are learning from it before they take on Alabama on the road in their last regular season meet of the season.

Iowa State had a lead over its rival, Iowa, with a lot more than just a victory on the line. If the Cyclones hit all their routines, they would have secured their season high.

A season high would potentially shoot them up the rankings from their spot at No. 23. For pride purposes, a rivalry meet victory might have been the most satisfying of all. Redemption would have come after the last Cy-Hawk meet in Iowa City saw the Cyclones lose a late lead.

The pressure had reached its pinnacle.

“It wasn’t even about winning at that point,” captain Briana Ledesma said. “We were on the verge of scoring that 197. Everything was building to get that. If we had done that we would have moved to No. 20 [in the rankings]. There was a lot riding on it and [I] just sat there watching it fall apart.”

Fellow captain Kelsey Paz got the final event started for the Cyclones with a solid score of 9.825. Two complete falls of the beam and two near falls ensued in the next four routines. After an hour building and maintaining the lead, it was gone within a matter of minutes.

“That wasn’t our beam,” Paz said. “It didn’t look like us up there. You could just tell that the pressure was there.”

The loss was tough for the Cyclones, and it didn’t help they had to sit through the Hawkeyes Senior Day ceremony and the electric slide that Iowa does with the opposition after every meet.

But when the team got on the bus, Ledesma said, they flipped the script to the next team on the schedule.

Iowa State will face off against No. 6 Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Friday night, the Cyclones final meet before the Big 12 Championships start next week.

“It became a lot about calculations instead of going out and performing,” Ledesma said. “It kind of hit us at Iowa when we calculating everything but everything was falling apart and we couldn’t split that. We were too busy worrying about getting [a score] and not about doing our gymnastics. Now our focus has been to forget about all that. Just do one routine on each event and move on.”

After last weekend’s performance, the Cyclones fell from No. 23 in the Road to Nationals poll to No. 30 this week. Iowa State can’t afford another rough performance in the finale. The top 36 teams in the poll qualify for regionals and for the first time since early in the season, the Cyclones are getting a little too close to that ranking for their liking.

An opportunity awaits for the Cyclones in Alabama where they will likely see a crowd unlike any they have seen this season. Alabama gymnastics average attendance exceeds 13,000 people per meet, nearly the same attendance the Iowa State men’s basketball team receives.

“That’s the kind of fan base we want at our meets,” Ledesma said. “We love to perform. With that many people there it will be a good chance to show what Iowa State gymnastics is. We go to other places and people don’t really know our name or we have a bad rep. To be in a place to show that many people how talented we are, I think it’s going to be a great opportunity.”