Despite no seniors, Cyclones prove they don’t lack leadership

Assistant gymnastics coach Katie Minasola reacts after Meaghan Sievers’ beam routine Feb. 17. 

Austin Anderson

Junior captain Briana Ledesma didn’t know if she would even be competing in the uneven bars on Friday night in the Iowa State gymnastics team’s last home meet, a win over Illinois State and Gustavus Adolphus.

She admitted she has struggled in the last two meets. Last weekend she fell off the bars, earning a 8.450. The weekend before that she had a few hiccups and finished with a 9.600.

But Ledesma’s career high of 9.900 is the Cyclones’ highest score on the uneven bars this season. That’s why even though Ronayne didn’t tell his captain she would be in the lineup until Thursday, he said he knew all week she would be.

Ronayne didn’t take Ledesma out of the lineup but he did switch it around. He put Ledesma as the last gymnast to go on the event.

“The whole scenario was to be the first five would hit great routines, like they always do, so there’s no pressure on her whatsoever,” Ronayne said. “She puts a lot of pressure on herself, that’s the monkey on her back. [The reason she went last] was to relieve all the pressure.”

A great idea in theory, but the scenario didn’t play out the way Ronayne hoped.

Sophomore Meaghan Sievers, one of Iowa State’s top performers on the uneven bars, took a fall midway through her routine. A fall so uncharacteristic that Ronayne said he has only seen her fall three or four times in the last six months on a routine she practices six times a day.

“I was like, ‘They’re all gonna hit, it’s OK,’ and then I saw Meaghan fall and my heart rate picked up,” Ledesma said.

Junior Haylee Young didn’t see Sievers fall, she was preparing to compete immediately following her, but she heard the bar and Sievers hit the ground.

“I walked away from the chalk bucket because I don’t like to think about it,” Young said. “I don’t like to think someone fell because it doesn’t change my routine, but it does make you more nervous than if they hit because then there’s no pressure.”

After her routine, Young went up to Hilary Green and Ledesma, who were the final two competitors on floor, and told them, “Your gymnastics doesn’t change, you got this.”

The goal of the lineup change was to create less pressure on Ledesma but with the preceding events, it seemed to do the opposite. Despite the pressure, Ledesma hit a 9.825, the Cyclones highest score of the event on Friday night.

“She approached it like, ‘No biggie,’” Ronayne said. “Which was incredibly refreshing because a year ago that wouldn’t haven’t happened and she probably would have crumbled.”

Traditionally, the last home meet of the season is senior night, but the Cyclones don’t have any seniors on this team. They are led by a strong junior class that has taken over the leadership role for this team and it showed on Friday night.

When Sievers fell, Ledesma, a captain, finished the routine with the events highest score.

When Green fell on the balance beam, Young scored a 9.900 to finish the event.

And when freshman Molly Russ stepped out on floor, Ledesma and Young led the scoring for the Cyclones.

“[The leaders] will get the job done when they are asked to do it,” Ronayne said. “What more could a coach ask for? You don’t run into those athletes all the time, and we have a couple of them on our team.”