When Chatham, Ontario, Canada native Bridget Carleton committed to Iowa State, the Carleton family was inundated with requests from family and friends to go visit Ames, Iowa to cheer her on.
“We had tons of people from Chatham who were like, ‘Oh if you ever go, we want to go,’” Carrie Carleton, Bridget’s mother, said.
After many trips of packing a van full of friends and family, the Carleton’s decided it was time to do one bigger. They rounded up 35 family and friends from Chatham and Michigan, rented a charter bus and drove down to Ames, Iowa to watch Bridget and the Cyclones take on West Virginia on Feb. 18.
The fan bus left at 4 p.m. on Friday from Canada and drove straight to Davenport, which also happens to be the hometown of head coach Bill Fennelly, to spend the night. The drive was over 10 hours to Ames, but the group had no trouble enjoying the ride. They played plenty of games, including some Iowa State women’s basketball inspired trivia, so everyone was well versed before they arrived at their destination – Hilton Coliseum.
The group was not hard to spot once they arrived. Sitting behind the basket on the home bench side of the court, the Carleton crew donned matching gold t-shirts, which were designed by rider Tim Regan. The t-shirt featured a stencil Iowa State logo surrounded by a maple leaf, the unofficial national symbol of Canada. The back featured a basketball with Carleton’s number “21” on the inside.
“Every bus trip needs a t-shirt,” Carrie stated. “It’s just part of the rules.”
The clan witnessed the Cyclones take on and defeat West Virginia, 68-63. Carleton gave her followers plenty to talk about when they returned north of the border. The sophomore played, tough and inspired basketball, helping guide ISU’s second half run, finishing with 16 points, six rebounds and a career-high-matching four blocked shots.
Following the basketball game, the group then got to see the rest of Bridget Carleton’s home away from home. They saw campus, Ames and the Iowa State basketball facilities. It was a full Cyclone experience.
“You know what, it really truly reminds me of our own hometown,” Louise Kaniecki, who joined the bus trip after also having visited Ames last season with the Carleton’s, observed. “The old buildings, and the character of the whole place is amazing. And [as far as] Hilton, it’s hard to beat that. For her to be able to play here all the time is amazing. It’s an amazing opportunity for Bridget, and I know she appreciates every single minute that she’s here.”
For the Carleton family, the bus trip marked one of many trips over the last year-and-a-half to Ames. The two have made the trek to Ames as many times as they could.
“When you watch your kid play for so many years, and she moves far away, it’s hard,” Carrie said. “So we come as often as we can. And whether it’s a long weekend, or we take a day off, we come as often as we can, and obviously watch every game that we can.”