Kindler: ISU's Future a Bright One

Iowa State's gymnastics team participated in just its second NCAA Nationals last weekend. Two gymnasts earned trips to the final round and one came away with All-American honors. Head coach K.J. Kindler and assistant Lou Ball were named NCAA national coaches of the year. Kindler recapped her team's remarkable season in a question-and-answer session with

CN: How about some closing thoughts on your team's participation in the NCAA Tournament?

Kindler: First of all it's something we've been aiming for for a very long time, obviously since we last qualified in 2000. I felt that we've had a team every year that could possibly qualify, and were that caliber of team the last five years.

Things definitely were difficult this year. In retrospect, if you had asked me of the last four years what team would qualify I would have been shocked to hear anyone say it was this team. The reason being is the amount of adversity, injuries, illnesses, and things that were thrown at us. Ultimately, the fact that we were having all these obstacles made us so incredibly strong. When it came down to the last meet of the year, they weren't going to have it. They've had their goals set on this for many years. Everything came together.

It was really an incredible year. I've been amazed at the way they competed at that level. When they got to Nationals, they looked like they belonged their whole lives. A lot of teams have that we're happy to be hear mentality, and we decided before we went that we weren't going to be that way. We were happy for 24 hours and after that we were going to make something of our opportunity. We had goals in mind on where we could end up.

I do have to give a lot of credit to my assistants. They have done a phenomenal job. Lou (Ball) got NCAA assistant coach of the year. We were really proud of him. Kristen (Hoeferlin) has done a great job with us, and is planning on another year with us. We're glad she'll be returning again.

CN: Was it a case of this team finally getting healthy at the right time?

Kindler: Yes. We were definitely the healthiest we have been all season at Regionals and Nationals, which was very helpful. But we were still without Krystal Carney and Jade Kvach on two events. It was just a rollercoaster, but we did get healthier.

The influenza went away. Every three days we were waiting to hear if there would be another case. This took the kids out for seven to nine days. You can imagine if that happened to your all-arounder. It would be like losing your quarterback in football for two weeks. It had a huge impact on the team chemistry.

CN: What were some of the highlights of Iowa State's trip to Nationals?

Kindler: We started on balance beam, one of the most difficult events to begin on. You have so much adrenaline and have to be so calm and controlled on beam. When you first start to compete, that adrenaline is at a high and you have to control it. They nailed beam. None of those athletes that had been on that team had ever been to the national meet, with the exception of my individuals. As a team, to nail beam right out of the gates, was definitely a highlight.

L.K. Powell and Janet Anson making individual finals was awesome. Erin Dethloff made All-American in the all-around. Plus, our floor and vault performances were the best of the season. There were so many highlights that it's hard to pinpoint one thing.

We received so many compliments from fans for our sportsmanship and on our crowd. We had a great group, almost 60 people come down from Ames and that was great.

CN: This is a relatively young team, too. What dividends will this experience pay for the future?

Kindler: Absolutely. We had one senior and she did not compete in the national meet. Every routine we competed at in the NCAAs is coming back next year. That's huge. We do have five juniors, so next year we will be a senior heavy team. That should be to our benefit, having that leadership. As these juniors have gotten older and wiser, and their leadership capabilities have grown, the team has gotten better. Having that kind of leadership can make a huge difference on a team. We're going to be a force to reckon with, a tough team.

CN: Have you sat down as a team to map out some goals and expectations for next season?

Kindler: We sit down next week. I gave them the entire week off. They're praising me and are so happy. They've been going since the first day of school and have not had a break. We have our banquet Saturday and next week we're having meetings to talk about that. I know that this made them a little bit hungrier. Now they know that they belong there, but can also excel there. That's going to make a huge difference for the future.

CN: So we can expect at least a Big 12 Championship?

Kindler: Hey, we're going to do our best. That's a goal every year as well. We've got some strong teams in the Big 12. Three of the 12 teams that were at Nationals were from the Big 12, so we had conference representation there. That's always a tough meet, the conference championship. It will be held at Nebraska next year, and that will be tough on their floor.

We have bid on the NCAA Regional, so we are hoping that we will be hosting that June 1st in Hilton Coliseum. That would be huge for our program.

CN: Have you started to get some more attention on the recruiting front since last week?

Kindler: I can already see that is paying off. When I returned home, the amount of emails and phone calls from recruits tripled. It's been awesome. Just this last week I can hardly keep up. I thought I was going to be able to rest this week, but I was completely off base. People are just responding like you wouldn't believe. We go on the road in the next few weeks to recruit, so the timing couldn't be better.

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