Time to improve begins to run out for gymnasts


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

Kevin Horner

As the postseason approaches for ISU gymnastics, winning or losing meets is becoming more and more irrelevant.

Regardless of its opponents or given circumstances, Iowa State has fixated its attention on one thing: improving overall scores for regionals.

Iowa State (4-8-1, 0-2-1 Big 12) will travel to State College, Pa. to square off against Penn (8-2, 5-0 ECAC), Penn State (7-2, 4-2 Big 10) and Brockport State (9-4, 8-0 ECAC-3) on Feb. 28. It is the first of Iowa State’s final two meets away from Ames — critical for improving its regional résumé.

“We really have to buckle down now,” said senior Caitlin Brown. “We need to take however many meets we have left, and we really need to nail each one.”

The Cyclones have three remaining regular season meets to further establish themselves before postseason play. Seeing that only the top-36 teams qualify for regionals, and Iowa State currently sits in the 30th spot, success in these meets is absolutely imperative.

In ranking teams in preparation for postseason play, only one score is taken into account — the Regional Qualifying Score, or RQS. The recipe for an RQS consists of the top six scores from a team’s regular season schedule — three of which must be away scores. Once these top six numbers are determined, the highest score is dropped and the remaining five scores are averaged to discern one’s RQS.

Iowa State currently holds an RQS of 194.945 — just 0.340 points ahead of Utah State, who currently sits in the 37th position. If the Cyclones are able to achieve success on the East Coast this weekend and post a season-high overall score, that score would then be dropped from the RQS, which would then allow the team’s score of 195.950 at Beauty and the Beast to replace its score of 193.475 against Minnesota. As a result, Iowa State’s RQS would be raised to 195.440, good enough for the 22nd spot overall.

“I think [being in the 30th spot] makes us all a little nervous,” said freshman Haylee Young. “It really lights a fire under all of us to push really hard because we should be higher than 30. I think we all know that, which motivates us even more.”

In order to truly capitalize on this opportunity in Pennsylvania, the Cyclones will have to discover a path to a mistake-free meet. Against Minnesota on Feb. 20, the ISU gymnasts allowed multiple missteps to debilitate their overall performance. With three falls in a single event, the balance beam, the Cyclones witnessed their chances of a RQS-boosting score dissolve before their eyes.

However, through an intense week of practice, Iowa State remains focused on its ultimate goal and is ready to finally utilize all of its untapped potential.

“This week in practice, we are putting [the gymnasts] under a lot of pressure,” said ISU gymnastics coach Jay Ronayne. “They have to respond. That’s what a championship-type team does, and that’s what we want to be.”

The ISU gymnasts have, to this point, responded with a streak of consistent, successful practices and now more than ever, it is absolutely critical that they implement this stability into their remaining competitions. These opportunities for improvement are beginning to fade and soon enough, they will be gone.

“Time is ticking,” Ronayne said. “If you waste any time, you’re going to get left behind.”