Randy York's N-Sider
Dan Kendig was a guest on Nebraska’s Talk to the Director of Athletics Show on the Huskers Sports Network. Cognizant that most Husker winter athletic programs are reaching the peak of their respective seasons and most spring sports are just getting off the launching pad, Nebraska’s two-time National Women’s Gymnastics Coach of the Year hit his primary talking point quickly.
“If you’ve never been to a gymnastics meet, this is the one you want to come to…this is going to be something special,” Kendig told studio host Greg Sharpe, referring to No. 9 Nebraska’s 6 p.m. Saturday matchup against No. 14 Arkansas at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. The match goes beyond emotional farewells for Husker seniors Emily Wong and Jamie Schleppenbach. This is a power-packed dual that pits two All-America all-around performers against each other. Arkansas’ Katherine Grable is the No. 3-ranked all-around gymnast in the country. Wong is the nation’s No. 4-ranked all-around gymnast.
“It’s been a great opportunity and a great journey to be on,” said Wong, who was arguably Nebraska’s most decorated individual student-athlete on a nationally competitive scale in 2012-13 and wants to ramp up her 2013-14 performance standard in honor of her father, John, who died last fall.
Without Her Dad, Emotional Meet for Wong
“It will definitely be emotional without my dad here for my last home meet,” said Wong, who earlier this week was named a recipient of the prestigious Wayne Duke Postgraduate Scholarship Award from the Indianapolis Big Ten Community Partnership.
Nebraska’s Spencer Long, a first-team Academic All-America football player, was the male winner of the same Big Ten award, giving the Huskers a two-year Big Ten sweep. Last year, Nebraska football player Sean Fischer and Husker cross country/track and field standout Katelyn White won the same $10,000 award. Wong and Long will be honored in Indianapolis during the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament quarterfinals on Friday, March 14.
Saturday night may be Wong’s home finale, but her focus will continue to be intense as the five-time first-team All-American points to NCAA Regional competition on April 5 and the NCAA Championships on April 18 and April 20. “This is the closest team I’ve been on,” Wong said. “Our chemistry has gotten tighter every year since I’ve been here.”
In his 21st year as Nebraska’s head coach, Kendig remembers recruiting Wong out of Grand Forks, N.D. “She was a gym rat,” he said. “She loved gymnastics and loved whatever she would do. She just had a passion for the sport and has exceeded every expectation since she’s been here.”
Wong, also a second-team Academic All-American and two-time Big Ten Distinguished Scholar, hopes to attend Physical Therapy School at the University of Nebraska Medical Center or in her home town of Grand Forks.
Physical Therapy School up Next for Wong
Eric Schryver, a senior from Richardson, Texas, and a first-team Academic All-American, also appeared on the Talk to the Director of Athletics Show on Tuesday night, along with Chuck Chmelka, the head coach of the Nebraska men’s gymnastics team, which travels to Norman to compete against No. 1-ranked Oklahoma on Sunday. Mark Williams, a gymnastics teammate of Chmelka’s at Nebraska, is in 15th season as OU’s head men’s coach.
On this week’s radio show, Chmelka raved about the renovated Devaney Center and the opportunity gymnastics fans will have when Nebraska hosts Iowa, Minnesota, Air Force and Illinois on Saturday March 15. The meet will be a precursor to the Huskers hosting the Big Ten Conference Men’s Championships on March 28-29.
“Our fans are going to love it because the Big Ten is the best conference for men’s gymnastics in the country,” Chmelka said. Schryver agrees with his head coach. “Since we’ve downsized the Devaney, it’s the perfect arena for gymnastics, just like it is for volleyball and wrestling,” he said. “I’ve never seen a facility quite like ours.”
Chmelka goes beyond that. “I’ve never seen a gymnastics arena like ours, and I’ve been all over the world,” he said. “I don’t know any gymnastics facilities with skyboxes. The Big Ten is only going to charge $5 for finals tickets. I’d love to see us pack that place for the conference meet. It’s a beautiful facility, and if you’re a fan, you just have to come out and see it.”
Medical School in Texas Next for Schryver
Like the women’s program, the Husker men’s program is producing its share of outstanding student-athletes. Schryver, for instance, announced on this week’s Husker Sports Network radio show that he has been accepted to attend medical school at the University of Texas-Galveston.
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