Now in their second season as members of the Big Ten, the defending conference champion Nebraska women's gymnastics team will set their sights even higher in 2013. NU returns seven total letterwinners from last season, including six All-Americans, while adding four newcomers to the roster. With a solid core of veterans and a stockpile of talent and depth, Head Coach Dan Kendig believes his 20th season with the Huskers has the makings of a top team on the national scene.
"We've come a long way since the beginning of the year and put in a lot of work in the gym, the community and the classroom," Kendig said. "Top to bottom, this season can be better than last season. If we keep working hard each day and getting better, I see good things on the horizon for this year."
Kendig is joined on his coaching staff by returning assistants Dan Miller and Heather Brink and volunteer assistant Owen Field. Miller will lead NU's vault and floor squads for the second season, while Brink will coach the Huskers' beam exercises and assist with floor choreography.
Leading the Way
- Returning Huskers
Nebraska's core of seven returning letterwinners will lead the Big Red into a loaded schedule of Big Ten opponents this season. Senior Janelle Giblin, a two-time first team All-American, will anchor the Huskers' efforts in 2013. Giblin's strength and consistency in all four events will aid the Huskers throughout the season.
A native of San Ramon, Calif., Giblin collected 15 individual event titles during her junior campaign in 2012, highlighted by nine titles on bars and an additional five on vault. She will be counted on to power NU's efforts on bars and vault while also contributing as an all-around competitor.
"Janelle's done a terrific job and been a big part of our success the last several years," Kendig said. "She'll be one of the leaders heading into this year as far as her ability to perform and to help her teammates."
Kendig and the Huskers are also excited to see the return of senior Kassandra Nathe to the lineup this season. After battling injuries the past two years, the Sartell, Minn., native will look to end her career at Nebraska on a high note. A second-team All-American on bars in 2010, Nathe will re-enter NU's lineup as a two-event specialist. Nathe has been a role model for the Huskers in the classroom throughout her career and was a Nebraska Student-Athlete HERO Leadership Award winner in 2011.
"Kassandra has gained an interesting perspective from being injured," Kendig said. "She is a returning All-American and she's aggressive and confident. I think she's ready to go out and make a difference this season."
The final returning senior on Nebraska's roster in 2013, Brittany Skinner has been a powerful performer and all-around competitor for the Huskers. A two-time All-American from Los Altos, Calif., Skinner set career bests on vault (9.925), beam (9.875), floor (9.875) and in the all-around (39.35) last season.
"Brittany is an x-factor," Kendig said. "She has worked extremely hard this year and she's taken on some leadership as well. If she is 100 percent on all four events, she can really make a difference."
A native of Lincoln, junior and All-American Jamie Schleppenbach will bring big talent to NU's vaulting lineup this season. Schleppenbach proved her mettle as an all-around competitor last season, scoring a career-high and meet-best 39.575 and powering NU to a road win over Utah late in the season.
The defending Big Ten all-around champion, Emily Wong will return her big talents and skilled beam routine to the lineup for the Huskers this season. Wong hails from Grand Forks, N.D., and earned her second career first-team All-America honor last season, placing 10th nationally on beam. Wong captured five beam titles last season while posting a career-high 9.925 two times.
One of the biggest difference-makers on last season's squad, sophomore Jessie DeZiel captured first-team All-America honors on floor and in all-around competition in her first year as a Husker. The Rogers, Minn., native was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and won a team-best 16 individual titles in 2012 in addition to seven all-around titles. The vault, floor and all-around champion at the NCAA Salt Lake City Regional, DeZiel will be counted on for big contributions in 2013.
Sioux City, Iowa native Jennifer Lauer competed in three events last season for the Huskers, providing depth on vault, beam and floor. An NACGC/W Scholastic All-American in 2012, Lauer competed at NCAA Regionals and the NCAA Semifinals for the Huskers.
Sophomore Desiré Stephens rounds out the NU letterwinners from 2012. Hailing from Omaha, Neb., Stephens primarily contributed depth on vault in her freshman campaign, including a 9.825 in her Husker debut against Minnesota. Stephens was also a leader in the community for the Huskers, earning a Nebraska Student-Athlete HERO Leadership Award in 2012.
Nebraska will also return Amanda Lauer and Kailyn Hawkins. The pair, who both earned NACGC/W Scholastic All-America honors last season, will look to break into NU's lineup in 2013.
Huskers Joined by Four Newcomers
The Huskers will welcome four skilled newcomers from across the Midwest to the gym this season. Jordyn Beck, Hollie Blanske, Ariel Martin and Madison McConkey will help the Huskers fill several important voids in their lineups in 2013.
"The freshmen are settling into knowing what's expected," Kendig said. "I think they're going to be able to help this team be better on all four events for sure."
Beck arrives at Nebraska from Overland Park, Kan., where she trained at McCracken's Gymnastics. An international elite level gymnast, Beck won a total of 15 event and all-around titles in the state of Kansas during her prep career. Beck is a versatile athlete with the capability to contribute on several events this season for the Huskers.
A native of Oak Grove, Minn., Blanske joins the Huskers from the same club that produced current NU All-Americans DeZiel and Nathe. A Junior Olympic National all-around champion and two-time Junior Olympic National team member, Blanske is an exciting addition to the Husker roster and will be looked to for big contributions in her first year with the Huskers.
Martin comes to NU from Chicago, Ill., and the Illinois Gymnastics Institute. A Junior Olympic National Qualifier and four-time Region V champion, Martin will bring a much-needed powerful vault and solid floor routine to the gym this season.
Nebraska's final newcomer this season is McConkey, A Lincoln native who trained at the Nebraska School of Gymnastics alongside Husker teammate Schleppenbach. McConkey, a Region IV runner-up in all-around competition and a three-time Junior Olympic National qualifier, has the potential to break into the Husker lineup on several events this season.
Event Preview: Vault
- 4 All-Americans: Giblin, Skinner, Schleppenbach, DeZiel
- All-Big Ten: Schleppenbach, Wong
With four gymnasts who have earned All-America honors during their careers returning, vault should be one of the deepest and most talent-heavy events for the Huskers this season. Giblin picked up first-team honors last season, while DeZiel added second-team accolades. Schleppenbach earned first-team honors in 2011, and Skinner was a first-teamer in 2010. In addition, Wong was an All-Big Ten Championship Team selection on vault in 2012.
Skinner, Jennifer Lauer, Nathe and Desiré Stephens will add experience to Nebraska's vault lineup. Sophomore Hawkins and true freshman Martin will also get a good look on the event for the Huskers.
"The depth and competition we have on vault will ultimately make all of us better," assistant coach Dan Miller said. "It also gives us a chance to rotate different girls into the lineup for experience and rest. At the end of the year, we should be a fresher, stronger team."
Event Preview: Uneven Bars
- 3 All-Americans: Giblin, Nathe, Wong
- All-Big Ten: Giblin
Nebraska will return three All-Americans on bars this season, led by 2012 second-team honoree Giblin. Giblin posted a 9.875 on bars at the Salt Lake Regional and again in the NCAA Semifinals to earn her second All-America honor on the event. Wong became a first-team All-American in 2011, while Nathe captured second-team All-America honors in 2010.
The Huskers will also return several consistent competitors from 2012 in DeZiel, Schleppenbach and Skinner. True freshmen Beck, Blanske and McConkey will also be candidates to see time for the Huskers.
"We are deeper this season on bars than we've been in the past," Kendig said. "We have three returning All-Americans on bars and a lot of people we can choose from for those other spots. If the girls continue to work hard, we're going to have a lot of depth, and when it's all said and done, we should have a pretty strong bar team."
Event Preview: Beam
- 2 All-Americans: Skinner, Wong
- All-Big Ten: Wong
The Huskers hit their stride on beam in the middle of the 2012 season, logging four of their top five scores from the beginning of February to early March. Nebraska will return 2012 first-team All-American and Big Ten champion Wong, who captured five individual beam titles last season. Wong will be joined by Skinner, who earned second-team All-America honors on beam in 2011.
The Huskers will also look to returners Giblin, Schleppenbach, DeZiel and Lauer for contributions on beam. Nathe, sophomore Amanda Lauer and true freshmen Beck, Martin and McConkey will get a hard look from assistant coach Heather Brink as well.
"The biggest thing we've seen is that we have a lot more depth this year," assistant coach Heather Brink said. "That raises the bar in competition to make the lineup. I want the girls to be consistent, confident and aggressive competitors. Usually, the team that wins beam is the team that ends up winning the meet. It can be a deciding factor in competition, and we know what we want to do this season."
Event Preview: Floor
- 2 All-Americans: Wong, DeZiel
- All-Big Ten: Wong, DeZiel
Though the Huskers lose former first-team All-American Lora Evenstad on floor, they will return a pair of All-Americans in Wong and DeZiel. Assistant coach Dan Miller says he is excited about the depth and competitiveness on floor in the upcoming season.
"I am excited about the depth we have on floor this year," Miller said. "We didn't have that last year. I love the fact that the girls will compete with one another in every day workouts for those spots in the lineup."
DeZiel will be Nebraska's top returner on floor this season after collecting first-team All-America honors on the event in 2012. DeZiel was the Big Ten floor champion and added eight individual floor titles on the season.
NU will also return second-team All-American Wong on floor. Wong earned three floor titles in 2012, including tying with teammate DeZiel for the Big Ten title.
Skinner, Giblin, Schleppenbach and Jennifer Lauer all saw consistent action last season and will have a shot at the lineup in 2013. In addition, sophomores Hawkins and Stephens and freshmen Blanske and Martin will have a chance to round out the rotation for NU.