Although all 45 Husker All-American gymnasts can boast a special place in the program's history, most notable among those honorees are Michelle Bryant, Heather Brink and Richelle Simpson, the only three NU female gymnasts crowned NCAA champions in 1990, 2000 and 2003, respectively. Bryant claimed her title on vault, while Brink became Nebraska’s first all-around champion in addition to her vault championship in 2000. Simpson followed in 2003 with a junior season full of spectacular performances, capped with her all-around and floor exercise crowns at the NCAA Championships held in Lincoln.
Richelle Simpson: The Finest in the Nation
2003 NCAA Floor Exercise and All-Around Champion
Husker Richelle Simpson holds a special place in Nebraska gymnastics history after her record-setting performances in 2002, 2003 and 2005. As the only Husker gymnast to ever earn first-team All-America honors on all five events in the same year, Simpson garnered five first-team awards at the 2003 NCAA Championships, leading the Huskers to a fourth-place national finish in their home arena at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
Entering the championships as the top-ranked all-arounder, she captured the NCAA all-around crown with a 39.675, edging out 2002 NCAA Champion Jamie Dantzscher of UCLA, who earned the top all-around performance in Session I of the NCAA Preliminaries with a 39.65. Simpson became Nebraska’s second all-around champion in school history, joining Heather Brink, who won the title in 2000.
At the NCAA Super Six Finals, Simpson went on to dominate the competition, producing the top individual performance with scores of 9.925 or better on all four events for an all-around total of 39.80. In the individual event finals, Simpson added an NCAA individual floor title (9.963) to her arsenal of accomplishments.
After being granted a medical hardship year in 2004 by the NCAA, Simpson returned with a vengeance in 2005, leading NU to a first-ever No. 1 ranking after the Masters Classic on Feb. 27. The Toronto, Ontario, native provided an unmatched spark in Nebraska’s run to the NCAA Super Six Finals, as the Huskers achieved a record of 21-14 in her final year and reclaimed the Big 12 Conference championship. Simpson, the 2005 South Central Regional Co-Gymnast of the Year, holds records in four categories on Nebraska’s all-time charts. Simpson also became NU’s first AAI American Award winner in 2005, an honor annually given to the nation’s top gymnast on the basis of athleticism, academic excellence and civic responsibility.
Heather Brink: The Best of 2000
2000 NCAA Vault and All-Around Champion
The 2000 season was the culmination of an outstanding career for gymnast Heather Brink. The senior from Lincoln permanently etched her name into the record books, winning two national titles at the NCAA Championships in Boise, Idaho, as the Huskers placed fourth at nationals – equaling their best finish in school history.
Brink became the first Husker female to win an all-around national title, scoring a 39.60 to lead the Huskers to the Super Six Finals for the third time in four years. Entering the final event, Brink was in third place and needed a 9.925 for a share of the all-around title. Brink came through with the finest routine of her career, scoring a 9.95 and equaling NU’s school record to win by .025 of a point.
In the Super Six Finals one night later, Brink was flawless, posting the top score of the evening with a 39.625, including a 9.95 on vault and a 9.925 on uneven bars, as the Huskers recorded their best finish in 11 years. In the event finals, she won her second NCAA title, placing first on vault with a 9.95, while finishing second on uneven bars (9.925) and eighth on floor exercise (9.80). Overall, she earned five All-America citations (four first-team and one second-team).
For her efforts, she was selected as the Honda Award winner, representing the nation’s top female collegiate gymnast. Brink joined softball standout Denise Day (1985) and volleyball players Karen Dahlgren (1987) and Allison Weston (1995) as NU’s fourth Honda Award winner. Greichaly Cepero won NU’s fifth Honda Award in 2000, as the nation’s top volleyball player.
The 2000 Big 12 and Region 3 Gymnast of the Year, Brink posted eight of the top 10 all-around totals in school history, including a school record of 39.70 at the NCAA Regional. She also became the first Husker gymnast to score a 10, recording the mark on vault against Iowa State on Feb. 15, one of three 10s during the season. She closed her collegiate career as the most decorated gymnast in school history, earning two NCAA titles, 11 All-America awards, six regional titles and eight conference titles.
Brink joined the Nebraska staff as an assistant coach before the 2012 season. She and her husband have two sons, Jaxon (7) and Hunter (2).
Michele Bryant: NU's First Champion
1990 NCAA Vault Champion
Michele Bryant will forever hold one distinction that no other Husker female gymnast can claim -- Nebraska's first female NCAA gymnastics champion.
A native of Blue Springs, Mo., Bryant became the first female gymnast in school history to win a national title, capturing the NCAA vault championship with a score of 9.85 at the 1990 NCAA Championships in Corvallis, Ore. Bryant’s vault score also set a Nebraska school record unbroken until 1994.
Bryant’s NCAA championship capped an impressive Husker career that saw her earn three first-team All-America honors and four Big Eight Championships.
A four-time all-conference selection, she led Nebraska to a 59-20 regular-season record and four Big Eight championships during her collegiate career. It was the first time a gymnastics team had won four straight conference titles in Big Eight history.
At the national level, the Huskers also qualified for the NCAA Championships all four years she competed, the first time in school history the Huskers qualified for nationals in four straight years, while guiding the Huskers to a pair of top-five finishes. As a junior, Bryant earned first-team All-America honors on uneven bars, as the Huskers finished fourth, their best finish in school history. In addition to her vault title, she placed sixth on uneven bars, becoming the first Husker gymnast to earn All-America honors in consecutive seasons, as the Huskers finished fifth at the 1990 NCAA Championships.
The first three-time All-America gymnast in school history, Bryant shared the Big Eight all-around title with fellow Husker Lisa McCrady in 1989 with a score of 38.90, while winning the balance beam title as a junior and the vault title as a senior. She finished her career as Nebraska’s school record holder in the all-around (39.00) and vault (9.85).
Bryant's contributions to Husker athletics were recognized with her selection as one of Nebraska's 25 Women of Distinction during the Athletic Department's 25-year celebration in April of 2000. Bryant married John McJunkins in 2005 and has a son, Austin, a stepdaughter, Johnna, and a stepson, Jaryd. She currently works as an accountant in Benton, Ark.