Clutch performances propel Iowa State gymnastics

Haylee Young performs her beam routine on Jan. 13 in Hilton Coliseum during Iowa State gymnastics tri-meet on Jan. 13. Iowa State won the tri-meet against Towson and UW-Oskosh with a score of 194.275.

Austin Anderson

Kelsey Paz had just watched her three teammates have disappointing performances on the floor exercise when coach Jay Ronayne approached her.

Iowa State probably shouldn’t have been so close to Towson, a team they had built a solid lead on through the first two rotations on Friday night, but that’s where the Cyclones found themselves. They were ahead of the Tigers by 1.825 at the midway point of the meet but when it was Paz’s turn to step on the mat, only a quarter of a point stood between the two teams with three performances left.

Ronayne had a simple question, “What are you going to do here?” he asked.

“I’m ready to perform,” Paz responded.

“That’s right,” Ronayne said. “You’re going to do your job. You’re going to perform.”

Paz heard the words her coach had to say but she was already locked in.

She scored a 9.875 — a career high.

“I’m so confident with my ability on floor and my team’s ability that it really didn’t faze me,” Paz said.

Paz competed in all four events on Friday night, a first place finish over Towson and Wisconsin-Oshkosh, after only being a participant in vault and beam in last weeks win over Arizona State. Before the season opener, Paz was only able to practice the day before the meet. A meet that was the culmination of an eventful week.

Paz had a kidney infection that kept her out of practice. She also flipped her car and ended up in the ditch in the same week.

She was physically fine, but was limited to only two events.

“I was really just excited to get back and do gymnastics,” Paz said. “I love my team and that’s pretty much all I wanted to do.”

Paz’s career high gave the Cyclones momentum. Junior Briana Ledesma was up next and had the chance to really put the meet away with a solid performance.

“Before Kelsey went I was a little rattled,” Ledesma said. “We had fall after fall after fall and that kind of puts a damper on you.”

Ledesma saw Paz’s performance and it calmed her nerves. In her head she said she told herself, “Just do you, that’s all you can do.”

Ledesma followed up Paz’s career high with one of her own, a 9.925 to essentially clinch the meet for the Cyclones.

“It says a lot about them and their competitiveness,” junior Haylee Young said. “They’re both such great competitors and I trust both of them every time they step out on the floor because I know they’re going to hit.”

The Cyclones wouldn’t have needed the dramatic ending to win the meet if it weren’t for “missed opportunities” throughout the meet.

Young had a fall on the balance beam in the third rotation. Hilary Green didn’t get a full final rotation early in the floor exercise. Meaghan Sievers wasn’t able to get the score on vault that Ronayne expected. Nonetheless, the Cyclones remain unblemished in the loss column.

“Those type of errors are stuff you do in the preseason,” Ledesma said. “As a team, we want to go to regionals, we want to go to nationals. These kind of things aren’t going to get us there. We’re definitely taking away a little burn that we’re not where we should be and we need to work harder.”