ISU gymnasts set high bar for NCAA Regionals


Sam Greene/Iowa State Daily

Senior Caitlin Brown prepares to finish her routine on the uneven bars.

Kevin Horner

The standard that the ISU gymnasts have set for Saturday’s NCAA Regional Competition is hardly short of perfection — and rightly so.

Given their regular season developments, the Cyclones recognize that it is time for every gymnast to finally simultaneously execute so that the team might have the opportunity to ascend the podium following the meet’s conclusion. There is no more time for mistakes, no more room for error.

Iowa State, hosting the NCAA Regionals for the first time since 2005, will welcome No. 4 LSU, No. 9 Nebraska, No. 16 Denver, No. 23 Washington and Michigan State to Hilton Coliseum on Saturday. A brief glimpse of the list of résumés of those teams is sufficient enough to generate fear into any gymnastics program, or perhaps for the Cyclones, motivation.

“We need to hit [routines],” said senior Caitlin Brown. “We need to hit how we hit in the gym. We need to hit all together, all at the same time, every routine to the best of our abilities.”

The formula for success is not complicated. There is not some “secret weapon” that the Cyclones need to unearth to generate success. It simply comes down to executing every routine at a high level. In a competition as critical as this — with the teams that the Cyclones have to compete against — a single fall could effectively eliminate a team from contending for the top two spots in the meet.

Three out of the five opposing teams traveling to Ames this weekend boast average scores that eclipse Iowa State’s season-high number. All five of these teams have at some point during the regular season exceeded a score of 196.000. The road to success is a daunting one for the Cyclones, but that has not placed a damper on their hopes or confidence.

“I think that we have a chance of definitely going to nationals if we do what we know how to do,” said junior Sammie Pearsall.

For Iowa State, it will have to exploit every minute fissure that these gymnastic powerhouses may expose on Saturday, from a failure to stick a landing to a minor wobble on the beam in order to have that opportunity at success.

In order to prepare for this, the coaches have allocated goals for specific routines and events in hope of maximizing opportunities that are missed by one or more of the five competitors.

“We’ve put some targets out there for [the gymnasts],” said ISU coach Jay Ronayne. “If we can stick four [landings] per event, that is the ideal. That puts us in a position to take advantage of another team messing up. Let the other teams make the mistakes, let’s do our job and let the chips fall where they may.”

One potentially significant element that may effectively nudge those chips in Iowa State’s favor is the advantage of Hilton Magic. An already enhanced atmosphere due to the implications of any postseason competition will be additionally enhanced in favor of the Cyclones as they will compete in the arena with which their familiarity is the highest.

The Cyclones have clearly displayed their affinity for Hilton, notching each of their top three scores inside of the coliseum and hope to continue to feed off of the energy that the home crowd produces.

“We’re really excited because Hilton Magic is already that high-energy, high-intensity type of feel,” Brown said. “To have that [at regionals] and to know what we’re walking into all-around, it’s exciting and we are really comfortable with it.”

The ISU gymnasts will look to feed off of the magic that Hilton brings in their quest for perfection and a shot at the NCAA Championships. Crazier things have happened in Hilton, right?

“Everyone [needs to have] their best day at the same time, which we can do,” said freshman Haylee Young. “This is the time to do it. I mean, why not?”