Living the Gymnastics Life


Southerner-turned-Iowan Haylee Young says her gymnastics career took off when she landed in West Des Moines and met Triad Gymnastics’ Tom and Donna Moretti, Chow’s Gymnastics’ Liang Chow, and Iowa State head coach Jay Ronayne. After four years competing for Ronayne’s Cyclones and graduating with a degree in public relations, she will serve as an ISU volunteer assistant coach for the 2019 season.

From VISIONS magazine, summer 2018

By Kate Bruns

Jay Ronayne vividly recalls the first time he met Haylee Young.

“She was probably around 13 years old, but she was so little she seemed like she was about eight,” Ronayne remembers of the bubbly blonde who introduced herself to him at West Des Moines’ Chow’s Gymnastics in 2010 as a friend of Cyclone gymnast Milan Ivory.

Young, Ronayne would learn, was a top-flight gymnast who had moved to West Des  Moines from Woodstock, Ga. Before moving to Iowa and training at Chow’s and at Triad Gymnastics, Young trained with Ivory, then a freshman on Ronayne’s Cyclones team, in Georgia. Young knew almost nothing about Iowa when she first got to the state, she says – but Ivory was her connection to the Cyclone program. And ever the gregarious kid, the future public relations major didn’t consider herself too young to start networking.

So a year later, when Ronayne started hearing the buzz about a “kid at Chow’s who’s really good,” it wasn’t necessarily a huge surprise when he realized the kids were one and the same.

“As soon as I saw her do gymnastics, I knew there was something special about her,” Ronayne said. “So we started recruiting her pretty heavily. When there’s a great gymnast in Iowa, we want her to stay in Iowa.”

From Young’s perspective Iowa State was an easy choice, just as Iowa has been an easy state to embrace as home.

“I committed when I was a sophomore [in high school],” she said. “I was recruited by  Iowa, Ohio State, a lot of Midwest schools…but once I visited here I really didn’t look around too much. My big thing was I wanted to go somewhere I felt comfortable with my coaches – get along with them and have them care for me as a person, and that’s the feeling I got.”

Now, more than eight years after first meeting Ronayne, Young (’18 public relations) is set to start her own career as a collegiate gymnastics coach. She plans to start learning the ropes from Ronayne by serving as a Cyclones volunteer assistant for the 2019 season.

Young, who has spent her life in the gym — including training twice a day from ages  10-14 for elite gymnastics — has experienced some incredible highs throughout her collegiate and pre-collegiate career. As a club gymnast she qualified for the Junior  Olympics nationals three times and in 2014 ranked among the nation’s top 10 in the floor exercise. As a Cyclone, she was a 2015 Big 12 all-around champion, 2018 floor champion, and qualified for the 2017 NCAA championships as an all-around competitor. She was a stalwart in meets and consistently posted some of the highest scores by a Cyclone  individual in the past decade.

For Young, those individual achievements are hard-earned and will always be cherished. But she says she has fallen in love with NCAA gymnastics because of its team spirit.

“It’s the hardest work I’ve ever done,” she says of her time at Iowa State. “It’s more  pressure than you can ever imagine, but it’s been the most fun time in my gymnastics career. Beating Iowa in the Cy-Hawk series by .025, which is as close as it can get, was a super-cool moment. This year we beat West Virginia twice, which was really big for us.  This entire year was a big high – we ended [the season ranked] 24th in the nation.”

Ask Young about the biggest highs in her college career, and she’ll rattle off those team accomplishments first. It’s several bullet points down the list before she remembers to mention she qualified to represent the best of the nation’s best at the 2017 NCAA  championships.

“Obviously making nationals last year was a big high in my career,” she says, “but while it was a fun meet it was nothing like it would have been if I’d had my teammates on the  floor with me. Our team is literally like family.”

“The weird thing about our sport is that it is truly an individual sport, and even classified by the NCAA as an individual sport,” Ronayne says. “But we [at Iowa State] treat  everything as all about team, and Haylee has embraced that from the day she walked on campus.”

The Cyclones, who despite a tremendous 2018 season were placed in a brutal NCAA regional this spring, saw only junior vaulter Meaghan Sievers qualify for the NCAA championships this year – ending at the NCAA Minneapolis Regional both Young’s collegiate career and her dream of qualifying as a team for the national championships.

“I was super hungry to train hard and bring them all,” Young says. “But we had a tough regional. We had a really tough regional. There were some other regionals where I looked at the scores and thought we could have done it. But, you know, right place, right time.”

“With the draw we had at Minnesota with the depth of the field we were up against, it was a lot of pressure on [Haylee],” Ronayne says. “She handled it incredibly gracefully. She made one little mistake on bars, one little mistake on floor, and that added up to her missing [nationals] by a tenth. It was a rough couple of days right afterward of ‘I wish,’
but she’s a pretty tough young woman. To miss qualifying as an individual was heartbreaking to her, but even more heartbreaking to her was the fact that we didn’t have an opportunity to qualify as a team.”

Young will go down in Iowa State history as one of its most popular student-athletes. Whether it’s because she’s following in her friend Shawn Johnson’s footsteps as an inspiration to Iowans or because of her “refuse to lose” attitude that has vaulted the Cyclones into the win column on many Friday nights in Hilton Coliseum, there’s just something about Young, Ronayne says. It will benefit her as a coach just as it helped make her a one-of-a-kind student-athlete.

“She’s highly social, which is great for a team dynamic. She’s highly competitive, which is great for any sport. And as a performer, she loves to show off,” Ronayne says. “She’s just got ‘it,’ whatever ‘it’ is. From the moment she stepped on campus, she became the face of our program. She’s a great ambassador for our university.”

Young says she has moved forward into life after competitive gymnastics with no regrets about her time as a Cyclone. Her relationship with the fans, many of whom are young girls who remind her of herself as a kid; the lifelong friends she has found in her teammates; and the career calling she has found in coaching have all been life-changing experiences.

“I don’t want gymnastics to not be in my life anymore,” she says. “After having the experience I had as an NCAA athlete, I want to be an NCAA coach as well.”

“She’s going to be great,” Ronayne says of Young’s coaching prospects. “She’s great at motivating people and she’s extremely passionate about the sport. She’s a gymnastics junkie. She’s been studying it her whole life.”

This article was originally published in VISIONS magazine. To receive the full issue delivered to your mailbox four times per year, become a member of the ISU Alumni Association.

(Your event here)

Uelner Executive Board Room

By Bry Cain

While the ISU Alumni Center is the forever home of Cyclones everywhere, many people who visit don’t realize we can also use the building to host your events! Both alumni and friends can rent the ISU Alumni Center for an event of their choosing – and members get a special discount!

The professional event coordinators at the ISU Alumni Center (Brooke, Bry, and Angela) have done a wide range of events — from weddings to memorials, tailgates to career fairs, graduations, meetings, showers, conferences, and holiday parties.

One of our building’s biggest draws is the art and memorabilia we have. If you haven’t been here for an event, you NEED to stop by the next time you’re in Ames. We have ISU fun facts lining the walls, and there’s donated art memorabilia on every floor. Many of our items are things you won’t see anywhere else! A few of my favorites are the Spirit of Iowa State mosaic mural, the pillars in the Eggerling ISU Traditions Garden, and Cyclone Tower.

building photos

Spirit of Iowa State, by Clint Hansen ’87

The Spirit of Iowa State mural can be found on the third floor in the Mente Boyd Reception Area; the Eggerling ISU Traditions Garden is located on the northwest side of the building; and Cyclone Tower is outside the building on the west side in the Slater South Garden. On football gamedays you’ll see it spin and play music. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see the lighting effects and hear the thunder!

Print2018 marks our 10th year in this beautiful building donated by ISU alumni and friends, with special thanks to Roy & Bobbi Reiman. Since we opened, we have done more than 5,400 events in our 10 rental areas. These events have resulted in more than 290,000 guests through our doors!

Will your event be next? Call us at (515) 294-4625 and we will take it from there!

Bry Cain is an ISU Alumni Center Program Assistant. For tips and assistance planning your wedding or event at the ISU Alumni Center, call Brooke, Bry, or Angela at (515) 294-4625 or visit

Meet your wedding planner!

Stay tuned to the ISUAA blog for some great event-planning tips from our ISU Alumni Center team.

And for assistance planning your wedding or event at the ISU Alumni Center, call Brooke, Bry, or Angela at (515) 294-4625, email, or visit


Left to right: Angela Horner, Brooke Lents, Bry Cain

Meet the Alumni Center team

Your wedding planner is going to be your right-hand man (or woman!) as your big day approaches. Because of this, it’s extremely important that your planner is someone you know and trust. That’s why, today, we’re kicking off our latest event-planning series by introducing Cyclones everywhere to our three Alumni Center Event Coordinators. They have more than 28 years of experience in the wedding industry!

Brooke Lents

lentsbrookeWhile Brooke was a student at Iowa State University, she started her first job in events, which would lead to many years of rewarding experiences. She was a member of the summer conference staff for the ISU Department of Residence, where she worked with all the summer conferences that stayed in ISU’s residence halls. She switched over to catering events for Hickory Park, and eventually moved to the position of catering director at the Holiday Inn and Suites Des Moines Northwest before she found the perfect job at the Alumni Center.

She loves the different clients and variety of events with which she now gets to work. Learning from this client about what’s most important to him or her is one of Brooke’s favorite parts of the job. The people by whom she is surrounded, both clients and coworkers, are what keep her motivated — as well as the high she gets after coordinating a couple’s perfect wedding day! After the drive home, she loves playing with her little toddler. who helps Brooke relieve any stress from the day.

Get to know Brooke:
  • What was your first car? 1988 Buick Century
  • Most unusual item in your desk/purse/backpack? A cell phone from 2005. I have a 2-year-old, so we have dug out old cell phones for her to play with!
  • What’s on your Bucket List? watching ISU play for a national championship
  • Strange phobias? popping noises, like a balloon popping or opening a tube of biscuits
  • Favorite sound? the Cyclone siren
  • Movie that always makes you cry? Marley & Me. It was one of the first movies my husband and I watched when we were dating. He thought I would like it because I love dogs. I bawled. A lot. Ha!
  • Worst song to have stuck in your head? If I tell you, then I will get it stuck in my head and I will be mad.
  • Is there a song that you know all of the words to? There are many songs, but the first one that came to mind was “Ice Ice Baby.”
  • Favorite children’s book? Hop on Pop
  • Biggest pet peeve? my husband biting his nails
  • Food that you have never liked (and will never like)? mushrooms
  • Favorite place on Iowa State’s campus? It’s really hard to pick! I would probably have to say the Gerdin Business Building. I spent a lot of time in that building and when I walk in there now, the smell of the building takes me back to college. It makes me think of my friends and all our classes in there. It makes me miss college!

Bry Cain

wisecup_bryannaBry graduated from ISU in 2017 with a degree in event management and marketing. Her first job in events was an internship coordinating weddings and events, as well as marketing, for Arnolds Park Amusement Park in Okoboji. After that, she started on the student event staff for the Alumni Center, where she moved up to the intern position and, with a little good timing, was able to apply for and be hired into a full-time position after graduation. She also has experience in coordinating concerts and working with floral arrangements and other décor — all experience she gained before starting at the Alumni Center. Scrolling through Pinterest, Instagram, and email subscriptions are what help her stay on top of all new and upcoming event trends. When asked about her favorite part of events she said: “Satisfied clients!” She loves to watch the client relax more and more throughout the planning process and the event and knowing that she helped them feel confident. When it comes time for her to relax, she loves to walk her Golden Doodle puppy or play volleyball.

Get to know Bry:
  • High school superlative? best smile and second in prettiest eyes
  • What’s on your Bucket List? Travel to all seven continents. I already crossed off skydiving, bungee jumping, and canyon swinging!
  • Strange phobias? Empty pop cans. Yuck!
  • Worst song to have stuck in your head? “Friday,” Rebecca Black
  • Is there a song that you know all of the words to? Anything Britney Spears or Shania Twain!
  • Favorite infomercial product? Or infomercial product you have been suckered into buying? A watermelon slicer with tongs. Just don’t do it.
  • Favorite Olympic sport to watch? All the summer Olympic sports, especially sand volleyball!
  • If you could only shop at one store for the rest of your life which would you choose? Target – no question.
  • Food that you have never liked (and will never like)? PEAS.
  • Favorite YouTube video? “Walk on the Wild Side” animal videos
  • Favorite place on Iowa State’s campus? Lagomarcino courtyard
  • Guilty pleasure music/TV show? all things within the “The Bachelor” franchise
  • Describe the perfect pizza? (crust type & toppings) Ooooh…I would love to combine stuffed crust pizza with Jeff’s Pizza Smotherella Sticks with garlic dipping sauce. Anyone else hungry?
  • Go-to karaoke song “Wannabe,” Spice Girls

Angela Horner

hornerAngela has worked in food and beverage for the majority of her 15-year career, from baking cupcakes and cakes for weddings to a hotel restaurant that led her to first “official” job in events at the Courtyard and Residence Inn Austin (Texas) Downtown. While in Austin, she decided it was time to move home to Iowa. She landed the program coordinator position at the ISU Alumni Center, was promoted to Alumni Center event manager, then stepped down to a part-time event coordinator position after her first child was born. She knew she had to stay in the events world, even after having a child, because she loves seeing people enjoying themselves at an event she helped plan. Loving what she does keeps the motivation flowing and the lists coming. When Angela’s not making lists, she loves to browse Pinterest to stay current with trends. When it’s time for some down time, she loves to read and work in her garden.

Get to know Angela:
  • What was your first car? 1989 Chevy Cavalier Z24
  • Most unusual item in your desk/purse/backpack? toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Favorite smell? warm vanilla sugar
  • Favorite sound? babies
  • Something you have always wanted to learn how to do? Farm.
  • Worst song to have stuck in your head? “Barbie Girl,” Aqua
  • Favorite children’s book? Bunny’s Book Club
  • Favorite Olympic sport to watch? swimming, volleyball, and gymnastics
  • Food that you have never liked (and will never like)? chicken-fried steak
  • Favorite YouTube video? any with baby goats
  • Favorite holiday? Thanksgiving
  • Guilty pleasure music/TV show? “McLeod’s Daughters”
  • Favorite Disney movie and song from that movie? Moana, “We Know the Way”
  • Article of clothing that you are embarrassed to say that you have owned/worn? MC Hammer pants


We’d love to learn more about YOU!

For more information about booking your next event with us, please call (515) 294-4625 or email We look forward to working with you to plan your special day!

Catching the entrepreneurship bug at Iowa State


From VISIONS magazine, summer 2018

By Betsy S. Hickok

For a young man who grew up dairy farming, Geert Boelen has found a novel way to diversify his future farm business.

Boelen may have come a long way from his childhood home, but farming has been a  constant. Eight years ago, he and his family relocated from a dairy farm in the Netherlands to one in Brooklyn, Iowa. With his agricultural focus, he decided Iowa State was the perfect place to pursue a higher education.

Besides his major in agricultural business, Boelen is taking advantage of the university’s  unique minor in entrepreneurship – and participating in Iowa State’s Agriculture  Entrepreneurship Initiative, created in 2005 to inspire students to think outside the box as they envision careers in agriculture. At the initiative’s core is the student incubator
program, which provides resources and mentoring for around 15 students each semester as they develop business plans and concept pitches.

As a participant, Boelen alighted on the tasty idea of cricket-farming after hearing a  podcast titled “Are edible insects the future of food?” He is now in the research and  development stage of a business cleverly called “One Hop Shop,” which raises crickets for human consumption. He and his co-founder, Darian Davis, have a business goal to provide restaurants in Ames and beyond with specialty-flavored whole crickets, and ultimately to become the most efficient and sustainable cricket farming operation in the  United States.

Boelen’s idea is one of many incubating in the multi-pronged Agriculture Entrepreneurship Initiative, in which students network with entrepreneurs; pursue coursework, workshops and internships related to entrepreneurship; and work toward graduating with viable business plans. The program is focused as much on generating new ideas as on teaching entrepreneurial thinking, whether graduates seek to initiate startups or simply bring a fresh perspective to existing businesses. Boelen said, “I have been very fortunate to participate in the Student Incubator program. Being in the same room with like-minded people and getting immediate feedback on new ideas helps me tremendously.”

The potential for the Agriculture Entrepreneurship Initiative to diversify and grow Iowa’s economy is not lost on organizations such as the Iowa Farm Bureau, which is the largest source of private support for the program. Since many of the students are  preparing to return to family farms and agribusinesses, the initiative can help re energize rural Iowa – and the state’s economy – by infusing farming operations and agribusinesses with entrepreneurial energy, knowledge, and leadership.

For the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the Agriculture Entrepreneurship  Initiative is among its key priorities for the Forever True, For Iowa State campaign, reflecting an entrepreneurial energy that is widespread across campus. For example, the Ivy College of Business not only offers its minor, but the college has also established the first entrepreneurship major in the state and the eighth entrepreneurship doctoral degree in the nation. Initiatives such as the CYstarters Summer Accelerator in the Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship and CyBIZ in the Ivy College of Business are also winning the university a national reputation for educating future innovators.

Such programs are preparing a whole new generation of professionals ready to hit the ground running – or at least hopping, in the case of Boelen. “The mentors I have through this program have helped me immensely during the semester,” he said. “They’ve  supported me and questioned me to better myself as an entrepreneur and as a person.”

This article was originally published in VISIONS magazine. To receive the full issue delivered to your mailbox four times per year, become a member of the ISU Alumni Association.