ISU gymnastics to face three top-10 opponents in Metroplex Challenge


Brian Mozey/Iowa State Daily

Sophomore Allie Hansen executes a leap during her floor performance. Hansen received a 9.725 score as Iowa State lost to Oregon State 195.950-195.975 Jan. 18. 

Kevin Horner

Even David didn’t have to face three Goliaths.

However, for the ISU gymnastics team, this daunting scenario holds true as a triple threat of established gymnastics programs will put the Cyclones to the test at the Metroplex Challenge on Jan. 31.

The challengers? No. 1 Oklahoma (4-0, 0-0 Big 12), No. 2 Louisiana State (4-0, 2-0 SEC) and No. 8 Arkansas (1-2, 1-1 SEC).

Their credentials? Between the three top-10 squads, they hold an average team score of 196.725, six NCAA Division I Super Six Finals appearances in the past four years and last year’s first and third-place finishes at the NCAA finals.

Given Iowa State (1-3-1, 0-0-1 Big 12) has achieved a score as high as 196.725 fewer than 20 times in its school history, the last time occurring on March 17, 2006 against the University of Iowa, it is safe to say that the Cyclones will be entering the meet as heavy underdogs.

But from Iowa State’s perspective, this position may be more of a benefit than one might infer.

“[The ISU gymnasts] do their best when they feel they have to have a chip on their shoulder,” said ISU gymnastics coach Jay Ronayne. “They do their best when they think people are looking down on them as if they don’t deserve to be there.”

The Cyclones already substantiated this claim earlier this year when they displayed a near two-and-a-half point improvement when matched up against No. 10 Oregon State. 

Furthermore, Iowa State has taken on the mindset of essentially having nothing to lose, but rather something to prove.

“There’s so much less pressure on us,” said freshman Haylee Young. “They’re going to expect Oklahoma or LSU to win, not Iowa State, and I think that’s a good thing for us.”

From another, additionally positive, vantage point for Iowa State, there is no defensive aspect to the sport of gymnastics. For the Cyclones, this fact translates to none of these powerhouses having a direct effect on their performance. These three competitors have not been nationally ranked for their stifling defenses. Rather, they, along with Iowa State, only have control over their own offensive production.

This, in a sense, opens wide the gate for an upset. Iowa State still will face three of the top 10 teams in the nation, but the supremacy of these teams holds no power to alter the Cyclones’ offensive production. Despite the bleak nature of the upcoming matchup, the ISU gymnasts still completely control their own fate.

“We know exactly who’s going to be [at the Metroplex Challenge],” said senior Caitlin Brown. “We know they’re number one, number two and number eight, but in the meet, that doesn’t matter to us. It’s just focusing on our routines, our gymnastics and each other.”

The ISU gymnasts will look to improve their scores and match their competition the way they always have: details.

As they have shown throughout the course of this early season, regardless of opponents, previous scores, injuries or anything else, the Cyclones will continue to focus on the intricate minutiae of their meticulous routines. For, as the team learned the hard way at Beauty and the Beast, even the smallest hundredth of a point can hold significant weight in a gymnastics meet.

“We need to hit all 24 of our routines and hit them cleanly,” Ronayne said. “If we do that, we have a chance of scoring above our numerical target. We just have to put that in action.”

If all goes well for the ISU squad Jan. 31 in the Fort Worth Convention Center Arena, it will have the opportunity to defeat a top-10 opponent for the first time since March 2006, back when it was Iowa State that was the Goliath of Division I gymnastics.