Iowa State’s lone senior gymnast moves on to nationals, teammates await future


Senior Caitlin Brown leaps into the air during her floor routine at the NCAA Regionals on Saturday. Iowa State placed fifth.

Kevin Horner

History seemingly repeated itself for the ISU gymnasts at the NCAA Regional competition.

Similar to last postseason, the Cyclones came up short at NCAA Regionals, failing to qualify for the NCAA Championships as a team. However, also similar to last year, the team will not go unrepresented at nationals in Fort Worth, Texas. Senior Caitlin Brown, who finished with an all-around total of 39.350, will return to the NCAA Championships for her second consecutive year.

As she did after regionals a year earlier, Brown experienced mixed emotions following the conclusion of Saturday’s competition.

“I mean, I’m disappointed,” Brown said. “My goal coming into this was to get my team to nationals. That was plan A and really the plan that I wanted, but I’d be more upset if I wasn’t going [to nationals].”

It was the last opportunity that Brown would have to compete in Ames, to bask in the excitement that is Hilton Magic. It was also her final chance to compete alongside her beloved collegiate teammates with whom she has generated significant relationships.

Although the natural goal for Brown was to assemble an all-around performance worthy enough for a bid to the NCAA Championships, a local Ames hero and arguably the city’s unofficial political leader gave Brown and the rest of the ISU gymnasts a bit of different advice.

“Fred Hoiberg told us yesterday, before practice, he said, ‘Enjoy it. Have fun,'” Brown said. “That’s what we did. We were having a great time at home and that’s really all it is. It was fun.”

Brown finished in a tie for fourth in the all-around competition — also as she did last year — yet she still qualified due to the fact that the top two all-around finishers had already qualified as a part of their team, effectively opening the next two spots for Brown and Nina McGee of Denver.

McGee’s 9.900 on her final event of the evening was the final step in punching her ticket to Fort Worth and, to the dismay of the ISU gymnasts, effectively eclipsing freshman Haylee Young’s all-around score. Young was next in line for the championships.

Despite this unfortunate outcome, one factor that differs from the 2014 postseason is the youth on this current ISU gymnastics team. Thus, although this season has reached its conclusion, the ISU gymnasts who will not advance to Nationals can look forward to next season with anticipation and motivation.

“I’m definitely proud [of the team],” said freshman Hilary Green. “There’s a lot more in store for us and I just want people to know that. We have a good class coming in next year and we’re ready to go to nationals.”

Last season, Iowa State had to bid farewell to six senior gymnasts, but, for this current gymnastics program, the only member not returning for another season is Brown. The remainder of the Cyclones can continue to look forward with hope for the future of the program.

As the Cyclones were tied with Nebraska for the second spot midway through the meet, just .075 points behind LSU, a small glimpse of the full potential of this ISU squad was revealed. Iowa State will attempt to utilize that glimpse as motivation to return even stronger when the next postseason rolls around.

“The message that I hope the team takes from [regionals] is that we can do this,” said ISU gymnastics coach Jay Ronayne. “We just have to believe and let it happen.”