Haylee Young steps up as rising star


Freshman Haylee Young dismounts off of the balance beam.

Kevin Horner

It seems as if “the new Caitlin Brown” has arrived for the ISU gymnastics team.

As the clock of Brown’s senior season begins to expire, a replacement has been sent in the form of freshman Haylee Young to assume the reigns at the helm of a developing ISU gymnastics program.

Brown, the team’s lone senior who has led the squad during the past two seasons, has been granted the opportunity to mentor a young gymnast who has displayed equal, if not greater potential as Brown did at the age of 18.

“I was really impressed with [Young’s] raw talent and how she had every event put together,” Brown said. “That’s rare to see of a freshman. Usually there’s an area that needs work, but we could really see her in all four lineups.”

Young is originally from Raleigh, N.C. and despite her successes in the Junior Olympics, she kept her hopes in check as she envisioned the impact she could produce in her rookie season. Prior to her arrival in Ames, Young questioned if she would even compete in any of the four event lineups.

ISU gymnastics coach Jay Ronayne and his gymnasts had other expectations, however. 

“What [Young] is doing right now was really the expectation,” said ISU gymnastics coach Jay Ronayne. “I really anticipated her being an all-arounder right away and being a very good all-arounder.”

Young, to the benefit of the entire team, has shattered her own anticipations for the season, executing on a level that has exceeded even the most optimistic of expectations. The West Des Moines resident currently leads and anchors both the vault and floor exercise for the Cyclones with average scores of 9.818 and 9.843, respectively.

In addition, Young has already recorded two scores of 9.900 during the first seven meets of her young collegiate career and has yet to fail to score a 9.800 or higher in at least one of her four events in each of those competitions.

“Our expectations [for Haley] were to be someone we can count on every meet and someone who should be anchoring things and that’s what she’s doing right now,” Brown said.

Brown, who has been the face of the program for the past two seasons, sat in a similar position to Young’s current situation during her freshman year. Brown was the standout freshman learning under senior veterans Michelle Browning and Celine Paulus.

Brown, like Young, made an immediate impact on the success of the team as a whole, participating in the vault, balance beam and floor exercise in all but one of that season’s meets. She, once the mentee under senior leadership, has now been given the chance to play the role of mentor to a potential future All-American.

“We’ve had a bit of a tradition over the past eight or so years that we have this junior or senior that is our all-around superstar and a freshman who is doing the same thing and pushing forward from the freshman class,” Ronayne said.

The combination of Brown and Young has certainly paralleled this trend in possibly an even more significant way. Although Brown played a critical part in the 2012 season, Young’s current success has perhaps proved to overshadow Brown’s freshman contributions — at least in the opinion of the Apple Valley native herself.

“I think Haylee just blows my freshman self out of the water,” Brown said. “She’s far better off than I thought I was as a freshman and that’s super exciting for me to watch.”

Even without the additional three years of collegiate gymnastics experience, Young continues to nip at the heels of Brown. After consistently falling just fractions of a point short of her all-around score in numerous meets, the freshman tied and then eclipsed her senior teammate at the Feb. 6 and Feb. 8 meets at Hilton Coliseum with scores of 39.250 and 39.325 for which she earned the award of Big 12 Newcomer of the Week.

Given the rarity of freshman talent such as that of Haylee Young, Brown has graciously accepted the role of mentor not only for Young, but also for all of the talented freshmen — guiding and molding that raw talent as they prepare for their futures as ISU gymnasts.

“We want to make sure that [the freshmen] have their heads on straight and try to grasp the overall concept of all of this early on,” Brown said. “If they figure it out early, there’s that much further they can go.”

Young’s already significant influence and remaining untapped potential, combined with Brown’s veteran mentorship, have granted the ISU gymnastics program with a seemingly very bright future as Young continues to fill in the shoes of her senior leader.

“She’s the new Caitlin Brown,” Ronayne said. “That’s what I anticipated and that’s exactly what has happened.”