Freshman gymnast vaults into nationals

Rachel Given

The ISU gymnastics freshman and sophomore classes have been ones to watch this season, and the postseason has been no different.

After seven Cyclones made it to the NCAA Regionals on April 2, only one has moved on to the NCAA Championships: freshman Meaghan Sievers.

Sievers is the third freshman in ISU gymnastics history to make it this far, but the task wasn’t easy.

“Going into the last event [at regionals], I knew I was in a good place [on the leaderboard],” Sievers said. “But I also knew the No. 1 team in the nation was coming up on vault and it could very realistically be gone in an instant, so I tried to keep my nerves down and focus on what I needed to do. I wasn’t finished with my meet yet.”

Sievers remembers watching every other competitor take their turns at the vault. As the performances continued to light up the scoreboard, Sievers kept thinking she was still in the competition. The moment Sievers found out she was going to the championships is one she and her family will never forget.

“My parents both stood up with their arms in the air, screaming,” Sievers said. “It was definitely a moment for us and it was awesome.”

Gymnastics coach Jay Ronayne wasn’t surprised that Sievers qualified for the championships. He thinks she’s a talented young woman, which is noticeable in her stats. 

“She’s something special,” Ronayne said.

As a freshman, the coaching staff always hopes the younger athletes can handle the pressure from these bigger meets,­ and Sievers is no different. Ronayne knows her capabilities and understands when the pressure is on. Sievers can bring everything she has to the table.

But pressure also leads to support, and Sievers has always had a strong support system. Sievers’s parents will make the 14-hour drive from Gary, S.D., to Fort Worth, Texas, to see her vault routine.

They already drove 15 hours to Lexington, Ky., to watch her compete at regionals. The women’s gymnastics team has always been at meets to cheer for Sievers, but only Sievers and the coaching staff will travel to the NCAA Championships. 

Sievers isn’t worried about not having the team there because she knows they have her back.

“I’m sure I’ll hear a lot from them that day, before and after [the meet], and having that support will help me,” Sievers said.

Although Sievers is the only Cyclone moving on, she’s a very team-oriented person.

“It’s a rare thing for an athlete to be like that,” Ronayne said.  “I think everyone around her recognizes that. She’s chasing her dreams, and she wants to bring everybody with her.”

Earlier this season, Ronayne said the team struggled on the vault, but was working on making it a stronger team event. Sievers is different; she has typically performed well on the vault and uneven bars.

“It sets the tone [for future athletes that], ‘this is it. This is how we do it,’” Ronayne said. “And [Sievers is] going to be able to show the rest of the team that we can do this. This is all we have to do.”

Running full speed toward a stationary object may look easy, but it takes roughly six seconds from the time she starts running to the landing to showcase her one skill. It’s a lot of pressure, but Ronayne believes Sievers can handle it. 

“It’s not more of an issue of lacking being good at vault,” Sievers said. “I think it’s more we just need to focus on the details, which is our landings and our form. We’re doing the same vaults as some of the best vaulters in the country. We just need to make sure they’re just as good as that.”

The key to performing well on the vault isn’t only about the skill or power that’s required to run down the runway. It takes proper form and timing to nail a routine, Sievers aid. She also said it depends on the type of vault a gymnast does.

“Anyone at this competition has a chance to be an All-American, and it’s pretty cool to sit back and realize that could be me,” Sievers said. “ I’m really excited to bring that vault to the table, and hopefully it’s the one.”