Cyclone programs surpassing old standards

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Breaking norms is challenging. It’s easy to become complacent and accept your position.

A number of Iowa State coaches have not accepted the norm and are successfully writing new scripts for their programs.

Take a bow, Andrea Grove-McDonough, Andrew Tank, Christy Johnson-Lynch, Christie Martens, Fred Hoiberg, Tony Minatta, Martin Smith and Duane Sorenson.

Those Iowa State coaches helped their programs to finishes in the league standings this year that were at least two spots higher than what the school averaged in the prior 17 years as a Big 12 member.

Grove-McDonough’s women’s cross country team won the Big 12 championship last fall. That program has an average league finish of 6.7 during its tenure in the Big 12. So, the first-place finish in ‘13 was a 5.7-spot improvement over the program’s long-term norm.

  • Tank’s men’s golf team was fourth this spring (9.3 avg.); thus a 5.3-spot gain;
  • Johnson-Lynch’s volleyball team was third last fall (7.0 avg.); thus a 4.0-spot gain;
  • Marten’s women’s golf team was fourth this spring (7.9 avg.); thus a 3.9-spot gain;
  • Hoiberg’s men’s basketball team was third last winter (6.8 avg.); thus a 3.8-spot gain;
  • Minatta’s (assistant in ‘13) soccer team was fourth last fall (7.8 avg.); thus a 3.8-spot gain;
  • Smith’s men’s cross country team was second last fall (5.5 avg.); thus a 3.5-spot gain;
  • Smith’s women’s indoor track team was fourth last winter (7.4 avg.); thus a 3.4-spot gain;
  • Smith’s men’s indoor track team was sixth last winter (9.2 avg.); thus a 3.2-spot gain; and
  • Sorenson’s swimming & diving team was third last winter (5.3 avg.); thus a 2.3-spot gain.

 Several other Iowa State sports also surpassed their historic averages, but the group above improved at least two spots.

It is quite rewarding to see the steady improvements that are taking place in many programs at ISU.

Another benchmark barrier surpassed by Cyclones

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Iowa State Athletics has broken through another barrier.

The Cyclones reached the first division of the Big 12 All-Sports rankings for the first time in program history.

ISU was fifth in the 2013-14 standings, trailing Texas, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Oklahoma. The Cyclone women’s cross country team was league champion for the third season in a row.

The fifth-place overall finish marked the third year in a row that Iowa State jumped two spots in the cumulative all-sport standings. Thirteen of ISU’s 18 sports finished in the upper division of the team standings.

In the 18-year history of the Big 12, the Cyclones average finish in the conference all-sports ranking has been 10th. ISU finished last in the standings seven times in an eight-year period (2002-09) before registering marks of 8th, 9th, 9th, 7th and 5th the last five years.

It’s been a steady climb for Iowa State and the accolades should be given to the hundreds of student-athletes and staff, who have made it all happen.

“I’m travelling well, mate.” — Sam Daley, ISU golfer

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Sights and sounds from a remarkable weekend of walking 54 holes with the Iowa State men’s golf team at the NCAA Regional Championship in Columbia, Mo.

The Cyclones entered the tournament seeded 9th (of 14 teams) in the region. Only 5 schools would advance to the NCAA Championship. Iowa State had not participated in the national meet since ’53.

Three days before departure, ISU learned that freshman Nick Voke (who led the team with 8 rounds in the 60s this year) had broken his collarbone. Coach Andrew Tank had to steady his team and reshuffle the line-up. At that point, the No. 9 seed seemed high.

STEPPING UP   That would be sophomore Collin Foster. The Waukee native – who played as the No. 5 man much of the season – was both steady (75-73 in the opening rounds) and spectacular (68, with a holed wedge for eagle, on Saturday). Foster’s tie for 26th was critical and impressive.

BEST ROOKIE   That would be true freshman Ruben Sondjaja. In his first season of college golf, Sondjaja fired rounds of 72-70-70 in the NCAA Regional Championship and his three-round total of 4-under par was good for a tie for 17th. His finish was the best of any true freshman in the field.

CONTRIBUTING IN MULTIPLE WAYS   When Voke was injured, Tank called freshman Jack Carter to take his place. Carter had already gone home for the summer. Knowing his score in the final round could be a tie-breaker, Carter shot a season-low 73. Additionally, Carter’s uncle (a Columbia resident) hosted a team dinner Friday night and that rib-fest hit the spot for all.

QUOTE OF THE TOURNAMENT   When I asked junior Sam Daley how his round was going one day, the sweet-swinging Aussie said, “I’m traveling well, mate.” After laughing at the description of his play, I agreed that he was definitely traveling well. His rounds of 74-72-66 showed a steady progression and the 66 included 4 birdies in the last 7 holes. That was, indeed, traveling well!

QUOTE II Coach Andrew Tank: “I have been hoping for a round like this all year where it really clicks. For it to actually happen on the most important day of the season is so rewarding.” To put it into perspective, Iowa State’s 18-under par score in the final round was a school record and came in arguably the most-important day (with an NCAA Championship berth on the line) in program history.

EAGLE HUNTER   You might have needed to see it to believe it. In the final round, Scott Fernandez blistered a 6-hole stretch in 5-under par. Remarkably, he putted for eagle on three straight holes. Fernandez drove the green (with a 3-wood) on the 334-yard (card yardage) 8th hole and then reached both the 575-yard 9th and 530-yard 10th holes in 2 shots.

 

All in all, it was 54 holes of drama and excitement for ISU golf. The NCAA Championship starts Friday in Hutchinson, KS. For the first time in 61 years Iowa State is in the field.

Time for some interior decorating at the Golf Performance Center

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The Iowa State men’s and women’s golf teams moved into a fabulous state-of-the-art practice facility last spring.

 It is an incredible complex for golfers. For prospective recruits, it’s impressive eye candy. For current Cyclones, it’s a combination training facility, study hall and team hang out.

During the interior decorating phase for the facility, Iowa State coaches Christie Martens and Andrew Tank considered lots of options and brought many ideas to the table.

There was one conversation with Tank in which he talked about having a wall to showcase team accomplishments. It sounded like a good idea.

And, in the last 2 weeks that “wall” is primed to come to life with a couple of very significant additions.

You see, Martens’ team tied for 6th at the 2014 NCAA West Regional to advance to the NCAA Championship for the first time in program history. They start play in the national championship event Tuesday in Tulsa.

Tank’s squad tied for 4th at the NCAA Columbia Regional Saturday to make the NCAA Championship field for the first time since 1953. The Iowa State men begin competition Friday in Hutchinson, Kan.

The Cyclones are one of 11 schools nationally (Alabama, Cal, USC, UCLA, Oklahoma, Stanford, Washington, South Carolina, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt are the others) to advance both of their golf teams to the pinnacle event of the year.

Both teams earned a souvenir flag after advancing through their respective regionals.

When they get home in a couple of weeks, I suspect those framed flags will be prominently displayed on the “wall”.