Kassandra Nathe was a 2013 All-Big Ten Championship Team selection on bars.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

NU Gymnasts Set for NCAA Morgantown Regional

By NU Athletic Communications

Saturday, April 6 | Morgantown, W.Va. (WVU Coliseum)
5 p.m. CT (6 p.m. ET)
No. 5 Michigan, No. 8 Nebraska, No. 17 Illinois, No. 19 Kentucky, West Virginia, North Carolina

The eighth-ranked Nebraska women’s gymnastics team will open their 29th consecutive year of postseason competition this weekend, travelling to Morgantown, W.Va. for NCAA Regional competition on Saturday, April 6. No. 2 seed NU will be joined in competition by fifth-ranked and top-seeded Michigan as well as Illinois, Kentucky, West Virginia and North Carolina.

The Morgantown Regional will take place at the WVU Coliseum on the University of West Virginia campus and is set for a 5 p.m. CT (6 p.m. ET) start. Fans unable to attend the meet can watch a free live stream of the competition at WVUSports.com or follow live scoring online. West Virginia will run two simultaneous live streams in split-screen format, with one stream showing vault and floor and the other displaying bars and beam. Fans can use either link to watch meet introductions and post-meet awards. Live updates will also be provided on the official Twitter account of the Husker women’s gymnastics team (@HuskersWGym).

The regional will feature an additional five at-large all-around competitors and one individual event specialist per event. The top two teams and the top two all-around competitors not on an advancing team will automatically advance to the 2013 NCAA Championships in Los Angeles, Calif., on April 19-21. If an individual event winner is not part of a qualifying team or a qualifying all-arounder, they will also receive a berth in the national championship meet.

The Huskers (16-3, 12-2 Big Ten) will enter this weekend’s competition on the hunt for the program’s 22nd NCAA Championship appearance. NU won their third consecutive conference title last weekend, taking home top honors at the Big Ten Championships in East Lansing, Mich., with a team score of 197.800.

Gymnast to Watch
Jessie DeZiel | So. | Rogers, Minn. (Twin City Twisters)

  • Was the 2012 NCAA Salt Lake City Regional all-around (39.40), vaut (9.95) and floor (9.90) champion.
  • Ranked in the nation's top 20 in the all-around and on vault and bars.
  • Earned three All-Big Ten Championship Team honors on March 23 (vault, floor, all-around).

Huskers Take Home Third Consecutive Conference Title
Paced by a program-record 49.725 on vault and nine titles in four events and the all-around, Nebraska captured the program’s third straight conference crown with a 197.800 at the 2013 Big Ten Women’s Gymnastics Championships on March 23. NU’s score was a conference championship school record and the highest away meet in school history, giving Head Coach Dan Kendig his 14th conference title at Nebraska. The Huskers’ crown also marked the first time the program has earned three-straight conference titles since 2001-02-03.

Emily Wong earned her second consecutive Big Ten all-around title, posting the second-highest score at a conference championship meet in school history (39.725). Wong took or tied for top honors on uneven bars (9.925), balance beam (9.90) and floor exercise (9.975) en route to top honors at the meet.

Joining Wong at the top of the podium were five additional Huskers. Janelle Giblin, Hollie Blanske, Brittany Skinner and Jessie DeZiel all tied for the title of conference vault champion, posting identical scores of 9.95. Wong and Jennifer Lauer tied three other conference gymnasts to earn the beam title at 9.90.

The Huskers kicked off the championship meet with a 49.375 on bars, their highest road score on the event this season. NU was paced by Wong, who earned a meet-best 9.925 overall that included a perfect 10.0 from one of four judges. Kassandra Nathe added a career-high 9.90 to aid Nebraska. DeZiel picked up a solid mark of 9.875, and Janelle Giblin tacked on a 9.85.

Nebraska displayed great focus and composure on beam in their second rotation, bouncing back from an early fall to capture a 49.225 on the event. Wong and Jennifer Lauer led the way for the Big Red, each earning marks of 9.90 in their anchoring routines to tie for the conference title. GIblin tied her second-highest beam score of the season with a 9.85, and DeZiel captured an identical 9.85.

The Huskers exploded for a season-high 49.475 on floor in their third rotation, which tied for the second-highest floor score at a conference championship in program history. Emily Wong led the way for NU, earning a perfect 10.0 from two judges to capture a career-high 9.975. DeZiel tied her career-best on floor, earning a season-high 9.95. Blanske earned a career-high-tying mark of 9.90, and Skinner captured a 9.85.

Nebraska took to vault in their final rotation of the evening, needing a stellar performance to overtake Michigan for the conference title. The Huskers more than delivered, earning a program-record 49.725 to seal their third-straight title. Four Huskers earned identical scores of 9.95 to tie for top honors in the Big Ten: Blanske, DeZiel, Giblin, and Skinner. Wong added a 9.925, and Desire’ Stephens posted a 9.85.

Michigan finished second overall at the meet at 197.225, while Minnesota took third at 196.775. Illinois earned a fourth-place finish with their score of 196.475 in the afternoon session, while Ohio State came in fifth at 195.950.

Breaking Down the NCAA Morgantown Regional Field
Nebraska will head east for postseason competition this weekend in Morgantown, W.Va. The Morgantown Regional field consists of six of the nation’s top 35 teams, led by top 10 squads in No. 5 Michigan and the No. 8 Huskers. The Wolverines and NU will be joined by a pair of top 20 teams in No. 17 Illinois and No. 19 Kentucky alongside West Virginia and North Carolina. 

Michigan enters the Morgantown Regional as the No. 1 overall seed and the fifth-ranked team in the nation. The Wolverines were the Big Ten regular season co-champion and finished second at the conference championship meet with a score of 197.225. UM junior Joanna Sampson was named the conference Gymnast of the Year and finished third in the all-around (39.575).

Three-seed and 17th-ranked Illinois finished third at the 2013 Big Ten Championship meet, posting a season-high team mark of 196.475. The Fighting Illini were led by junior Amber See and senior Alina Weinstein, who each notched top-three finishes on floor (9.95) to earn spots on the All-Big Ten Championship Team. Weinstein is one of the nation’s top 15 all-arounders, holding a national ranking of 11th and an RQS of 39.505.

Seeded fourth overall with a No. 19 national ranking, the Kentucky Wildcats are in their second season of competition under Head Coach and former Nebraska assistant Tim Garrison. Garrison has led a revitalization of the UK program, culminating in a school-record 196.775 at Penn State on March 16. The Wildcats earned their first All-SEC selections since 2005 this season, with Kayla Hartley and Alexis Gross capturing spots for their performances at the SEC Championship meet.

Host team and No. 5 seed West Virginia earned a 194.675 at the program’s first Big 12 Gymnastics Championship, finishing third behind Oklahoma and Iowa State. Senior all-around performer Kaylyn Millick posted a 39.200 in the all-around to finish second overall and earn All-Big 12 Championship Team honors. Millick is the Mountaineers’ highest-ranked gymnast on any event, coming in at 27th nationally in all-around competition with an RQS of 39.300.

The North Carolina Tar Heels will round out the team competition field at the Morgantown Regional. Seeded sixth in the regional, UNC notched a fifth-place finish at the East Atlantic Gymnastics League (EAGL) championships with a 194.225. Senior gymnast Elizabeth Durkac was named the co-EAGL Gymnast of the Year for the 2013 season; she is the nation’s No. 34 all-arounder with an RQS of 39.240. 

Joining competitors from the six qualifying teams will be eight individual gymnasts from three schools. New Hampshire will send all-around competitors Austyn Fobe and Kayla Gray alongside vault and floor qualifier Hannah Barile. Rutgers placed five gymnasts in individual competition, including all-arounders Luisa Leal and Alexis Gunzelman, bars specialist Jenna Williams and beam competitor Claudia Salinas. Pennsylvania qualified lone all-around competitor Kirsten Strausbaugh.

Up Next for Nebraska
This weekend’s performance will dictate whether the Huskers qualify for their fourth-consecutive NCAA Championship and their 22nd in program history. The top two finishers from each of the six regional sites around the country will advance to the 2013 NCAA Championships in Los Angeles, Calif.

Hosted by UCLA at Pauley Pavilion, the national championships will feature competition between the 12 best gymnastics team in the nation on April 19-21. The event will kick off on Friday, April 19 with team preliminaries. Preliminary competition will be split between two sessions, with the first beginning at 2 p.m. CT (Noon PT) and the second taking place at 8 p.m. CT (6 p.m. PT). The top three finishers in each session will advance the Super Six team finals on Saturday, April 20 at 6 p.m. CT (4 p.m. PT) to vie for the 2013 national title. Individual NCAA event champions will be crowned in event finals on Sunday, April 21 beginning at 3 p.m. CT (1 p.m. PT).

Fans wishing to purchase tickets for the NCAA Championships may do so at UCLABruins.com. Tickets are $55 for reserved adult seating and $40 for general admission. Discounted rates for students, children and groups are also available.

Huskers Rise to No. 8 After Season-High Performance 
Nebraska’s season-best performance of 197.800 at the 2013 Big Ten Championship meet boosted NU to No. 8 nationally for the week of March 25. The Huskers’ RQS jumped to 197.145 overall, up from 196.840 last week. NU also boasts a trio of top five national rankings, including a high appearance of No. 5 on beam (49.225). The team added rankings of sixth on bars (49.335), a tie for sixth on vault (49.420) and a tie for 10th on floor (49.280).

Five Husker individuals also wrapped up 11 total appearances in the top 25 rankings. For the first time this season, junior Emily Wong pulled down top 25 rankings on all four events and in the all-around. The No. 4 all-around competitor in the nation with an RQS of 39.610, Wong is also seventh on bars (9.920) and tied for seventh on floor (9.925) and eighth on beam (9.900). She made her first appearance this season in the vault rankings, coming in a tie for 17th on the event (9.910).

Jessie DeZiel earned three individual appearances this week. DeZiel posted her fourth consecutive 9.95 on vault last weekend to climb to seventh in the country (9.930). She is also eighth in the all-around (39.525) and tied for 18th on bars (9.895).

Janelle Giblin, Jennifer Lauer and Brittany Skinner all pulled down appearances in the top 25 this week as well. Giblin is 12th nationally on bars (9.905), while Lauer is tied for 22nd on beam (9.880). Skinner rounded out the listing of ranked Huskers, tying for 17th on vault (9.910).

Looking Back: 2012 NCAA Salt Lake City Regional
The 2012 Nebraska squad posted a 196.525 team score to finish in second place at the NCAA Salt Lake City Regional, hosted by the University of Utah. Utah took the top spot by scoring a 196.825 overall, while Minnesota took third at 194.800.

NU was led by DeZiel, who took home the all-around crown and a pair of event titles on vault (9.95) and floor (9.90). The Rogers, Minn., native scored a 39.40 in the all-around and was trailed by Janelle Giblin, who finished in second with a 39.375. DeZiel is the first Husker to win a regional all-around title since Emily Parsons in 2006. Emily Wong also took home hardware on the night, winning the beam title with a 9.875.

The Huskers started on bars, where they were led by a pair of strong performances from Giblin and Lora Evenstad in the fourth and fifth spots respectively. The duo each scored a 9.875 to help NU scored a 49.125 on the event. Wong led the event off with a 9.825 and was followed by DeZiel, who scored a 9.80. Brittany Skinner tallied a 9.75 to round out the action for NU.

On beam, NU captured a 48.975 in their second rotation to take a total of 98.100 into their bye rotation. Wong led all NU gymnasts with her meet-high 9.875, while Giblin and Lauer each scored a 9.80. DeZiel posted a 9.75 in the fourth spot, while Kaitlyn Busacker matched DeZiel’s score in the final spot. Busacker, who was filling in for an injured Jamie Schleppenbach, was competing in only her third meet on the beam.

After each team had completed two events, the Huskers sat in second place behind Utah heading into their third event on the floor. DeZiel and Evenstad continued to anchor the event with two strong performances. DeZiel posted a meet-high 9.90, while Evenstad closed with a 9.85 to give NU their 49.15. Skinner posted a 9.85 and Giblin tallied a 9.825, while Lauer kicked the event off with a 9.725.

The Huskers clinched their second-place finish by posting a 49.275 on vault. Lauer continued her impressive night by tying her career-high 9.85 in the Huskers’ first routine. Both Skinner and Giblin matched Lauer’s score of 9.85, while Evenstad posted a 9.80. DeZiel stole the show in NU’s final spot by tying her career-high score of 9.95.

Husker NCAA Regional History
This weekend’s regional competition marks Nebraska’s 29th consecutive postseason appearance, dating back to 1985. The Huskers own five total regional championships, with the last coming in 2003. In addition, Nebraska has finished inside the top two at regional competition in 12 of the past 14 seasons.

Five Huskers Earn All-Big Ten Honors
Nebraska placed five gymnasts on the 2013 Big Ten All-Conference teams, the league office announced on March 18. Jessie DeZiel, Janelle Giblin, Jennifer Lauer and Emily Wong earned first-team All-Big Ten honors for their performances throughout the season, while Brittany Skinner picked up NU’s lone second-team award.

All-Big Ten honorees were chosen based on a new selection process this season. The top ten student-athletes were allotted points based on their Regional Qualifying Score (RQS) standing, with 10 points given to the No. 1 ranked athlete and one point given to the No. 10-ranked athlete. All points from each event and in the all-around were then combined, with ties given the same number of points. The student-athletes with the 12 highest point totals were named to the first team, while the next 12 captured second-team accolades.

2013: Rewriting the Record Books
The Huskers have been rewriting the storied Nebraska record books across the board this season, culminating in the best road score in school history last weekend at the Big Ten Championships (197.800). NU has also seen a flurry of top 10 all-time efforts this season from individuals and the team as a whole.

As of this week, the Huskers have earned three of the program’s top 10 team scores all-time in a single season: 197.800 (fourth), 197.675 (sixth) and 197.525 (tie-ninth). The 2013 team is the first Nebraska squad to log more than two of the program’s top 10 scores in a single season since the 2003 Huskers posted five.

In addition, Nebraska broke the program’s 10-year-old vault record this season, earning a 49.725 at the conference championship meet. That score bested the previous program-best of 49.700, set by the 2003 squad against Oklahoma. NU has also earned the fourth-highest vault score in program history, a 49.650 at Cal on March 16.

Several Husker individuals have also etched their name in the Husker record books this season, led by Janelle Giblin, Jennifer Lauer and Emily Wong. Giblin tied a standing record of 12 years this season when she posted only the second 10.0 on uneven bars in school history at Iowa. Giblin’s perfect score tied Bree Dority O’Callaghan’s 10.0 on the event at the 2001 Big 12 Championships.

Lauer is tied for eighth in the Husker record books on beam after scoring an impressive 9.95 in Nebraska’s season-opener against Michigan. Her score marked the Huskers’ highest on the event since Tricia Woo’s identical 9.95 in 2009.

Wong has done her own part this season, earning a spot in the top 10 on multiple events. Her career-high 39.725 in the all-around at the Big Ten Championships gave her the seventh-best score in school history. She also became the first Husker to break the 39.700 mark in all-around competition since Richelle Simpson and Tami Harris in 2004. Wong’s career-best 9.975 on floor exercise at the conference championship meet also tied her for fifth all-time on the event and gave her the highest floor score by a Husker since Emily Parsons in 2008.

The Huskers made their mark in the Big Ten Championship record books this season as well. NU’s nine individual conference champions or co-champions is the most in a single season in Big Ten history, besting Michigan’s 8 in 1997. Additionally, Emily Wong’s four individual titles at the championship meet ties five other gymnasts for the most titles in a single season. Her seven career Big Ten titles is tied for third-most all time. A back-to-back conference all-around champion, Wong is the first in the Big Ten to achieve that feat since Penn State’s Brandi Personett in 2007-08.

Emily Wong: All-Around Outstanding
Emily Wong has set herself apart as one of the finest all-around competitors in the nation throughout 2013. Heading into NCAA Regional competition, Wong is ranked No. 4 nationally in the all-around with an RQS of 39.610 and boasts top 20 rankings on every event. She has captured 23 event titles this season, including a team-high seven in the all-around.

Wong’s consistent excellence was on full display at the 2013 Big Ten Championship meet, where the junior took home her second consecutive conference all-around title with a career-high 39.725. That score was the second-highest in Nebraska’s conference championship history and included individual Big Ten titles on bars (9.925), beam (9.90) and floor (9.975). Wong added four All-Big Ten Championship Team selections to give her eight over the past two seasons alone.

DeZiel Dazzles on Vault
Jessie DeZiel has hit her stride as the anchor of NU’s vaulting lineup during the month of March. After entering the month ranked in a tie for 92nd on the event, DeZiel has posted four consecutive scores of 9.95 to rise to No. 7 nationally with an RQS of 9.930. She has earned or tied for four event titles during that time, including a share of the 2013 Big Ten vault title at the conference championship meet.

Steady Lauer Leads Huskers on Beam
One of Nebraska’s anchoring routines in the beam lineup, Jennifer Lauer has stepped up to become a consistent threat for the team this season. Lauer has earned a team-high five titles on the event this season, including a share of the Big Ten beam title last weekend. Lauer captured a 9.90 on the event to tie with four other gymnasts for top honors on the event. She has posted scores of 9.85 or better in nine meets this season and is tied for 22nd nationally on the event with an RQS of 9.880.

Victorious Vaulters
Assistant Coach Dan Miller has elevated Nebraska’s vaulting corps into one of the team’s top scoring threats this season. After a slow start at the beginning of 2013, the Huskers have logged the nation’s top two scores on the event in the last month. NU has risen to a tie for No. 6 nationally on the event, boasting an RQS of 49.420.

After posting two of their top efforts of the season against Iowa (49.400) on March 4 and at Minnesota (49.375) on March 9, Nebraska blew both of those efforts out of the water in their regular season finale at Cal. Five Huskers posted scores of 9.90 or better as the team earned the No. 4 vault score in school history at 49.650.

NU followed up in championship fashion the next week with a program-record 49.725 at the Big Ten Championships. Blanske, DeZiel, Giblin and Brittany Skinner all earned or tied career-bests with vaults of 9.95 to pace the Huskers, while Wong added a 9.925 and Desiré Stephens picked up a 9.85 for the Big Red.

Kendig Climbs All-Time Coaching Wins List
Nebraska Head Coach Dan Kendig has continued to climb Nebraska’s list of all-time coaching wins leaders in 2013, logging 15 victories to hold 469 in 20 seasons. That total is good for fourth all-time across all sports in Husker history and is likely to increase following this weekend’s NCAA Regional action in Morgantown.

Kendig trails only current softball Head Coach Rhonda Revelle (779), former baseball Head Coach John Sanders (767) and former volleyball Head Coach Terry Pettit (694) on the list of all-time wins leaders at Nebraska.

Six All-Americans Poised to Lead Huskers in 2013
NU's efforts this season have been anchored by its six returning All-Americans, including three honorees that captured eight awards last season. Jessie DeZiel, Janelle Giblin and Emily Wong headline a group that has won 16 awards since 2010 and also includes seniors Kassandra Nathe and Brittany Skinner and junior Jamie Schleppenbach.

Nebraska has relied on sustained success from its vaulting corps, frielding four previous All-Americans. The group is led by 2012 first-team All-American Giblin and second-team honoree DeZiel alongside previous first-teamers Schleppenbach and Skinner.

The Huskers also welcomed back three previous All-Americans in both all-around competition and on uneven bars. Notably returning to the competition floor on bars this season was 2010 second-team All-American Nathe, who previously missed the past two seasons due to injury. Nebraska returned two All-Americans on floor and beam as well.

Kendig Architect of One of Nation's Top Programs
Now in his 20th year at the helm of the Nebraska gymnastics program, Head Coach Dan Kendig is the all-time winningest coach in Nebraska history. Kendig holds a 469-174-4 record overall and a 300-71-2 regular season mark. An eight-time conference coach of the year selection, Kendig most recently earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors last season after guiding the 2012 Huskers to the program’s 22nd conference title. He guided the 2013 Huskers as they repeated the feat in 2013, capturing a conference championship for the third consecutive season.

Kendig has also led the Huskers to 15 NCAA Championship appearances in the past 18 season, including NCAA Super Six Finals appearances in 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2011. Kendig was honored as the NCAA Coach of the Year in 1999 and 2003, a year in which the Huskers finished fourth nationally. He guided the 2012 Huskers to a 24-7 record overall, including an eighth-place finish at the 2012 NCAA Championships in Duluth, Ga. The performance marked Nebraska’s 28th consecutive NCAA post season appearance, while three of Kendig’s gymnasts--Jessie DeZiel (FX, AA, V), Janelle Giblin (V, UB) and Emily Wong (BB, FX, AA)--earned All-America honors.

NU Assistants Boost Husker Efforts in 2013
Joining Kendig in his leadership of the Huskers this season are second-year assistant coaches Heather Brink and Dan Miller. Brink continues her role in the gym as the team’s beam coach while assisting with floor choreography. Brink has boosted Nebraska to a No. 5 national ranking on the event while guiding Jennifer Lauer and Emily Wong to a combined nine titles. Her leadership was instrumental in coaching Lauer and Wong to shares of the Big Ten title on the event. In her first season as an assistant with the Huskers, Brink helped coach Emily Wong to first-team All-America honors on beam. Brink’s assistance with NU’s floor routines also guided Jessie DeZiel to first-team All-America honors and Wong to second-team honors on the event.

Miller continues to lead NU’s efforts on vault and floor in 2013. Miller’s gymnasts have snagged 17 titles on vault and 10 on floor this season. He has also coached the Huskers’ vaulting corps to the nation’s two highest scores on the event this season, including a school-record 49.725 at the Big Ten Championship. During his first season at Nebraska in 2012, Miller guided DeZiel to first-team All-America honors on floor and second-team honors on vault. He also assisted in the development of Janelle Giblin, who earned first-team honors on vault, and Wong, who picked up second-team honors on floor. The gymnasts under Miller’s tutelage in 2012 garnered a total of 15 floor titles and 14 vault titles throughout the season.

Volunteer assistant coach Owen Field, now in his third season in that position, aids NU’s full-time staff in 2013. Field assists head coach Dan Kendig on the uneven bars while also working with the Huskers’ strength and conditioning program.

Huskers Sign Two for 2014
The Huskers announced the addition of a pair of multi-talented recruits for 2014 in November. Dan Kendig and the Big Red will welcome Ashley Lambert and Jennie Laeng next year, rounding out the Husker roster and giving the Huskers increased depth and new skills in their lineup.

"We are very excited about the signing of both Ashley and Jennie," Kendig said. "They will both bring a vast amount of experience and skill to our team next year. They complement each other extremely well: Ashley is powerful and her best events are floor and vault, while Jennie will be a force on bars and beam."

A native of Virginia, Lambert is a level ten gymnast that has trained at World Class Gymnastics under coaches Tami Harrison and Troy Miller. Lambert is a four-time Junior Olympic National Qualifier. She earned the all-around title at the 2013 Level 10 Virginia State Championships this month, including gold medals on vault and bars. In 2012, she notched a fifth-place finish in all-around competition and a second-place finish on floor at Regionals. Lambert also picked up a third-place finish in all-around at the Regional level in 2011 that included first-place finishes on vault and floor.

A level ten gymnast from Ohio, Laeng trains at Olympic Dreams Gymnastics and has qualified for both Junior Olympic Nationals and the Junior Olympic National Invitational Tournament. In 2011, Laeng finished first in all-around and beam competition at the Junior Olympic National Invitational. She added a fifth-place finish on bars and seventh on beam at the 2012 Junior Olympic National Championship.


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