Honors & Awards
When Nebraska Head Coach Dan Kendig was hired in 1993, his goals were to return the Nebraska gymnastics program to national prominence and to have Nebraska in a position to win a national title, while also maintaining the highest standards of academic excellence for Husker student-athletes.
Kendig has not only accomplished those goals, but made them a standard for excellence in his 24-year tenure, as Nebraska is considered among the nation's elite in both the gym and the classroom.
In the 24 seasons of the existence of the NCAA Super Six Finals, Nebraska is one of only seven programs, along with Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, UCLA and Utah to qualify for 10 or more team finals, and the Huskers have earned NCAA Championship berths in 15 of the past 18 years. Under Kendig, 42 NU gymnasts have combined to earn 146 All-America honors since 1995, more than 15 times NU's previous total during the program's first 18 seasons.
At the conference level, the results are equally as impressive. Nebraska has won 15 conference titles during Kendig's tenure, including an unprecedented six straight Big Eight/Big 12 crowns from 1994 to 1999. In addition, Nebraska has had at least one individual conference champion in each of the past 20 seasons and 10 all-around champions, while seven gymnasts have been conference newcomers of the year.
Since Kendig arrived at NU, his teams have compiled an outstanding 571-214-4 (.724) record, including a 417-95-2 regular-season record and a 154-119-2 postseason mark. He has also earned national, regional or conference coach-of-the-year honors in 10 of the past 20 seasons.
Twelve of Nebraska's 15 CoSIDA Academic All-America awards in women's gymnastics have come under Kendig, while he has also guided two NCAA Woman of the Year finalists -- Shelly Bartlett in 1997 and Richelle Simpson in 2005. In addition, Kendig coached Joy Taylor when she became the 1996 CoSIDA Academic All-American of the Year, as well as Simpson, who was recognized with a 2005 NCAA Top Eight Award. Kendig has guided numerous other academic all-conference and NACGC/W Scholastic All-America honorees in his time at Nebraska.
For his accomplishments with the Husker gymnastics program, Kendig was honored by his peers as the NCAA Coach of the Year in 1999 and 2003.
Seventh-Place Finish in 2017
2017 was another special season for Nebraska, as the Huskers won the Big Ten regular season championship and finished seventh overall at the NCAA Championships. The Huskers put forth their best effort of the season at the NCAA meet, just missing advancing to the Super Six Finals with a score of 197.2125. Three Huskers earned a total of four All-America honors, as Ashley Lambert earned a pair of second-team honors on vault and floor to finish her career as a three-time All-American. Sienna Crouse and Danielle Breen took home their first-career All-America honors, with Crouse picking up first-team recognition on vault, and Breen earning second-team honors on beam. NU went 8-1 in conference action in the regular season to win its second Big Ten regular season title. Taylor Houchin was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year as she set a pair of NU freshman records. Six Huskers were named All-Big Ten, while nine Huskers earned Academic All-Big Ten honors in 2017.
The First Decade: Setting a Standard
Kendig's first decade at Nebraska produced its share of memorable moments, including nine conference titles, eight NCAA Championships appearances and the NACGC academic team title in 1995.
In his first season as head coach in 1994, Kendig led the Huskers to their first Big Eight title since 1990, while earning conference coach-of-the-year honors. Seven gymnasts, including Kim DeHaan, who was selected the Big Eight Newcomer of the Year, earned all-conference honors, and Nebraska's fourth-place regional finish was its best in four years.
In 1995, Nebraska continued to move toward national prominence. Behind conference titles from Martha Jenkins and DeHaan, Nebraska repeated as Big Eight champions. At the Midwest Regional held in Lincoln, NU finished second, allowing the Huskers to return to nationals for the first time since 1990. The Huskers placed 11th at the NCAA Championships, and Taylor became the sixth Husker in school history to earn All-America honors, placing 15th on bars.
Kendig's 1995 squad also earned considerable praise in the classroom. Nebraska was named NACGC academic gymnastics team champions, compiling a 3.561 team grade-point average, while seven Huskers were named to the Big Eight Academic Honor Roll, including Nicole Duval, who earned first-team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors, and Taylor, who was named a second-team CoSIDA Academic All-American.
The 1996 Huskers closed the book on the Big Eight with a dominating performance at the final conference meet. Kendig was named Big Eight Coach of the Year for the third straight season, and NU won its 12th and final Big Eight title. Individually, DeHaan and Taylor combined to win all four individual event titles, marking the first time that NU swept all four crowns at the conference meet. Taylor also won the all-around, while Misty Oxford was named Big Eight Newcomer of the Year.
After advancing to the NCAA Championships for the second straight season, the Huskers barely missed a bid to the Super Six by the slimmest of margins -- .025 of a point -- finishing 10th. DeHaan earned All-America honors on bars by finishing 11th. The 1996 squad also boasted a pair of first-team CoSIDA Academic All-Americans in Taylor and DeHaan, marking the third straight season NU had at least one academic All-American. Taylor, who was selected as the CoSIDA Academic All-American of the Year, and DeHaan both sported perfect 4.0 GPAs.
In 1997, Kendig's Huskers rewrote the record book, setting school records on each apparatus in posting a 22-2 regular-season mark, NU's best record in seven years. The Huskers, behind seven all-conference selections, captured the inaugural Big 12 title, as Shelly Bartlett won the all-around title and two event titles, while Heather Brink tied Bartlett for the bars crown and was selected as the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year.
After finishing third at regionals, the Huskers recorded one of the most memorable moments in school history at the NCAA Championships in Gainesville, Fla. After missing the Super Six Finals the previous year, the Huskers claimed a berth in the team championship by hitting all 24 routines in the preliminary session, forcing a tie with top-ranked Utah. Nebraska won the tiebreaker, which was the score of the sixth gymnast in each event, 234.725-234.350, to make its first appearance in the Super Six Finals in program history. The Huskers finished sixth, as Bartlett, Brink, Oxford and DeHaan captured 10 All-America awards.
In 1998, NU posted a 14-4 regular-season mark and won its fifth straight league title to mark the first time in Big 12 history a women's gymnastics team had won five titles in a row. Nebraska also paced the Big 12 in the classroom, as eight gymnasts earned academic All-Big 12 honors, including seven first-team honorees. Courtney Brown, Laura Ohlendorf and Oxford were named NACGC Scholastic All-Americans.
In 1999, Nebraska enjoyed one of the most successful seasons in program history, going 26-10, winning the Big 12 title and qualifying for the NCAA Championships. NU returned to the Super Six and finished sixth overall, as Brink, Oxford and Brown earned eight All-America honors. In addition, four gymnasts captured Scholastic All-America honors, while all 10 student-athletes who were eligible for academic all-conference honors earned first-team or honorable-mention accolades.
The 2000 season was a special one for Kendig and the Huskers, as Nebraska celebrated its program's silver anniversary season with a 36-9 record, the first regional title since 1983 and a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Championships, equaling the best finish in school history. NU was ranked as high as third nationally, and set numerous team and individual school records. Individually, Heather Brink won the NCAA all-around and vault titles and became the first Husker gymnast to win the Honda Award, emblematic of the nation's top gymnast.
The Huskers reached new heights in 2001, smashing the school total team score record by more than three quarters of a point with a 197.750. NU topped the previous record team score seven times that year, highlighted by a commanding performance at the Big 12 Championships, where Nebraska set school records on bars (49.725) and team away scores (197.650).
In 2002, the Huskers finished with a 23-8 record, a fifth Big 12 title, a third consecutive regional title and a fifth-place finish at the NCAA Championships. NU's 2002 team excelled in the classroom as well, earning a team GPA of 3.4015.
Kendig's 2003 squad, arguably the strongest team Nebraska has ever produced, finished with a 27-4 overall record, a sixth Big 12 title, a fourth consecutive regional title and a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Championships at the Devaney Center. The Huskers set school team records on vault, floor and total scores with a stellar 198.300 against Iowa State. Simpson captured the NCAA all-around and floor titles to lead a group of seven gymnasts who earned a total of 16 All-America honors, the most awards Nebraska has received in a single year.
The Next Chapter of Success
Kendig entered his second decade as the Husker head coach in 2004, and NU compiled a 15-9-1 record and a second-place finish at the NCAA Southeast Regional in Lincoln. NU traveled to its sixth consecutive NCAA Championships, where the Huskers finished in 10th place. Four gymnasts earned first- and second-team All-America awards at the NCAA Championships - Libby Landgraf (V, UB), Jamie Saas (BB), Kristi Esposito (AA, BB) and Michele Zabawa (V). Gina Bruce earned NU's only perfect 10.0 score of the season on vault against Missouri on Jan. 31.
In 2005, NU followed up with a sixth-place finish at the NCAA Championships, working through adversity with the loss of an injured Simpson in the postseason. Four gymnasts grabbed seven All-America awards, as Emily Parsons came away with first-team honors on floor and second-team accolades in the all-around, beam and vault. Esposito was a first-team honoree on beam, while Zabawa and Desiré Sniatynski earned second-team recognition on bars. Simpson, a nine-time All-American, was honored as the AAI Award winner, making her the first Nebraska gymnast to accomplish such a feat. Simpson was also named Nebraska's Female Student-Athlete of the Year, earned a prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship and was honored with the NCAA Top Eight Award.
The 2006 season saw the Huskers go 26-11-1 in a fifth-place NCAA Championships finish. On the first day of national championship competition, NU finished first in its preliminary session for the program's best opening performance since 2003. Seven Huskers took home 10 All-America awards to close the year, with Parsons leading the way with first-team honors on vault, floor and the all-around. Tricia Woo was a first-team honoree on floor and a second-team winner on beam, while Vanessa Meloche took home first-team accolades on bars. Zabawa and Sniatynski also earned second-team All-America status on bars, while Stephanie Carter and Kylie Stone were named to the second team on floor and vault, respectively.
Nebraska gave a strong finish to the 2007 season at the NCAA Championships in Salt Lake City, Utah, placing sixth in the team competition and taking away an overall record of 26-12 on the year. Four Huskers earned six All-America honors at the event, while three competitors qualified for individual event finals. Nebraska's appearance at the NCAA Championships was its ninth in a row and 18th overall. Parsons continued her dominance through her junior year, as she was named a first-team All-American on vault and floor exercise, bringing her career total to nine All-America awards. Woo earned first-team All-America honors on beam, giving her a career total of three All-America nods. Zabawa was the third Husker to take first-team All-America honors, being named to the vault team, and also earning a second-team spot on bars. In addition, Sniatynski garnered second-team All-America status on bars for the third consecutive year.
In 2008, Kendig led the Huskers to a third-place finish at the NCAA Southeast Regional in their 25th straight NCAA postseason appearance and a 13-9 overall record. Two Huskers earned three All-America honors and qualified for event finals at the NCAA Championships. Parsons captured a first-team nod on beam and second-team recognition in the all-around and Sniatynski also garnered first-team All-America honors on bars. Additionally, Woo captured her first Big 12 title on beam.
In 2009, Kendig's Husker squad made a third-place showing at the NCAA Southeast Regional in their 26th straight NCAA postseason appearance. Junior Kylie Stone tallied the second All-America award of her career at the NCAA Championships in Lincoln. Throughout the season, the Huskers saw strong performances from veteran leaders as well as a glimpse of a bright future with NU's strong freshman class. As a result of the accomplishments of his team, Kendig was named the 2009 Big 12 Coach of the Year.
Nebraska gave a strong finish to the 2010 season at the NCAA Championships in Gainesville, Fla., placing seventh in the team competition and taking away an overall record of 23-8 on the year. Six Huskers earned seven All-America honors at the event, while two competitors (Lora Evenstad and Brittany Skinner) qualified for individual event finals. Nebraska's appearance at the NCAA Championships was its 19th overall in program history.
Kendig and the Huskers posted another strong season in 2011, finishing with a 22-12 record overall. Kendig guided the Huskers to a fourth-place showing at the NCAA Championships, matching their best finish in school history. Nine Huskers earned 11 All-America honors at the event, while seven competitors (Erin Davis, Janelle Giblin, Jamie Schleppenbach, Maria Scaffidi, Emily Wong and Evenstad) qualified for individual event finals. In NU's final season in the Big 12 Conference, Kendig was honored as the 2011 Big 12 Coach of the Year, the seventh such accolade of his career. He also guided the Huskers to their ninth Big 12 Championship - and the first since 2007.
Nebraska put together another outstanding season under Kendig's leadership in 2012, posting a 24-7 record. The Huskers qualified for the NCAA Championships where the team notched an eighth-place finish. Three Huskers garnered a total of eight All-America honors, and all three All-Americans (Jessie DeZiel, Wong and Giblin) qualified for the individual event finals. Nebraska's appearance at the NCAA Championships was its 21st overall in program history. In Nebraska's first season of competition in the Big Ten Conference, Kendig guided the Big Red to the Big Ten Championship, while five Huskers earned All-Big Ten honors. In recognition of his work in the gym throughout the season, Kendig was named the 2012 Big Ten Coach of the Year.
Kendig continued his impressive coaching career in 2013, as the Huskers captured another Big Ten Conference title and six All-America awards at the NCAA Championships, finishing with an overall record of 19-5. The Huskers qualified for NCAA postseason competition for the 29th time in program history, finishing third at the NCAA Morgantown Regional. The 2013 squad posted three of the highest team scores in school history throughout the year while consistently being ranked as one of the nation's top-10 squads.
Under Kendig's coaching Nebraska earned its third consecutive conference title at the 2013 Big Ten Championships where the Huskers posted their conference championship record score of 197.800. Emily Wong captured her second consecutive Big Ten all-around title, and the team hit an event high 49.725 score on the vault with four gymnasts tying for top honors. Nebraska sent three competitors to the 2013 NCAA Championships in Wong, Jessie DeZiel and Brittany Skinner. Wong placed third overall in the all-around competition and 10th on vault. Wong also took home four All-American awards, while DeZiel pulled down two.
The 2014 season was an exciting one for Kendig and the Huskers, as Nebraska battled its way into the Super Six Finals for the 11th time in school history. NU finished the season with a 27-11 overall record and the Big Ten Conference regular season title. Four Huskers took home seven All-America honors at the NCAA Championships, as DeZiel came away with first-team honors on beam and second-team in the all-around. Blanske and Schleppenbach both added first-team honors on beam, while Schleppenbach finished third overall at the event finals. Wong tacked on three honors, finishing eighth on floor, 14th on beam and fifth in the all-around competition.
Under Kendig's leadership, Wong capped one of the most successful seasons by a Nebraska gymnast in school history. Through the regular season she captured 32 event titles, including 10 all-around crowns. Wong was the 2014 AAI Award winner, an honor given annually to the nation's top gymnast on the basis of athleticism, academic excellence and civic responsibility.
In 2015, NU compiled its best season winning percentage in four seasons with a 28-9 record. Nebraska earned its 17th NCAA Championships bid under Kendig, finishing the season with a 15-1 regular-season record, an eighth-place finish at the NCAA Championships and three All-Americans. Blanske earned first-team All-America honors on floor after earning a berth into the event finals, finishing 11th overall. Blanske also grabbed second-team accolades in the all-around. DeZiel closed out her collegiate career with a bang, taking home first-team honors in the all-around with a sixth-place overall finish and a second-team award on vault. Ashley Lambert garnered her first career All-America accolades after a record-setting season, earning second-team honors on floor.
Nebraska had another successful season in 2016, which culminated with an eighth-place finish at the NCAA Championships. The Huskers posted a team score of 195.775 to finish fifth in their NCAA semifinal. Hollie Blanske earned three All-America honors at the national meet, including first-team honors on vault and second-team honors on floor exercise and in the all-around. NU took second at the Big Ten Championships, and finished second at the NCAA Iowa City Regional to advance to the NCAA Championships.
Kendig's Husker Connection
Kendig's ties to Husker gymnastics date back to 1981, when he served as an assistant under Judy Schalk for three seasons. In his first stint at Nebraska, the Huskers won two Big Eight titles and made NCAA appearances in 1982 and 1983. The 1983 squad was one of only five NU squads in school history to win an NCAA regional.
In 1983, Kendig became the head coach at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he stayed until 1992. His teams captured NCAA Division II national titles in 1988 and 1989, won six regional titles and produced 37 All-Americans.
During the 1993 season, Kendig served as head coach at Cornell, where he coached three academic All-Americans. Kendig, who earned a bachelor's degree in physical education from Kentucky in 1979, then returned to his NU roots after the 1993 season. At that time, he also became an instructor at the Woodward Gymnastics Camp in Woodward, Pa. In his 25 years at Woodward, Kendig has advanced from an instructor to a program director to a master staff instructor.