Cy-Hawk rematch of unforgettable night has arrived

Sophomore Haylee Young (right) hugs freshman Meaghan Sievers after her floor exercise routine during the meet against Iowa at Hilton Coliseum March 4. Young scored a 9.925, contributing to the Cyclones’ narrow 196.025-196.0 victory over the Hawkeyes. 

Austin Anderson

It was March 4, 2016, when Sara Townsend, a senior at the time, looked up at the scoreboard hanging in the rafters of Hilton Coliseum.

Meaghan Sievers, a freshman at the time, had just finished the floor exercise with a 9.875 before sophomore Briana Ledesma hit a 9.900. Back-to-back career highs.

That’s when Townsend’s brain went to work.

Townsend, an engineering student, knew the Cyclones had trailed after the third rotation by a solid margin. Tying the meet up would be unlikely.

Winning it? Nearly impossible.

Townsend was in the middle of running the calculations on what the Cyclones would need to make the meet interesting when coach Jay Ronayne approached her.

“What do we need?” Ronayne asked.

“9.900,” Townsend responded.

“To win?” Ronayne asked.

The team was all gathered around, anxiously anticipating the response.

“To tie.”

Everyone on the team heard what the Cyclones needed with one final routine left in the meet.

Everyone except for Haylee Young.

Young was being saluted by the judges before she began her routine.

“I did not know what score I needed,” Young said. “I knew [the score] was super close, and when I turned around before I went I saw [Ledesma] get a 9.9, which is her career high. So when I saw that I knew I had an opportunity to do really well.”

The scores had been built up nearly perfectly. They continued to rise to the point where if Young hit her passes cleanly, she had a chance to match her previous career high of 9.900.

A 9.900 would tie the meet.

If the Cyclones lost, Iowa State would lose the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk series trophy. A win would send it to a winner take all matchup in softball.

It was also senior night for Iowa State.

There was a lot more than a score on the line. Everybody in the gym knew what it came down to except the only person who could do anything about it.

It all came down to Young, the sophomore whose family initially became Iowa Hawkeye fans when Hawkeye shirts were the first kind of apparel they saw when they moved to Des Moines from Atlanta her freshman year of high school.

“We’re either going to tie this, or we’re going to win this, or Haylee is going to land on her face and the meet is going to be over,” Ronayne said. “One of those three things are going to happen. The chances are really good she’s going to have a great routine because she’s Haylee Young.”

Her teammates swarmed her after she finished her routine and watched as the judges raised the score.

A 9.925.

Young didn’t just tie the meet. With a career high on the very last routine of the meet, she won it for the Cyclones, and as Ronayne said, “history was made.”

“We acted like we just won the national championship,” Ledesma said. “We were dripping sweat from pouncing on the floor. It was like the greatest feeling ever.”

The excitement flows from the gymnasts’ voices like the meet was yesterday, even one year later.

Time has finally arrived for the rematch.

“They definitely think they’re better than us,” Young said. “I think they have a little cockiness, which is fine because that helps people compete well. I think we need to go in as we know we’re good. We know we’re very good, so we have a very good opportunity to come out on top.”

The stakes remain nearly as high, exactly 365 days later.

Iowa is currently ranked No. 14 in the country, and this is the Hawkeyes’ final meet this season in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Senior night.

“You kind of go in there with a little chip on your shoulder,” Young said. “We’re trying to beat them. Everyone knows it, every [Iowa State athletics] team wants to beat Iowa. Their fans are obnoxious, and we want to show them up at their place on senior night.”