Photo by Isabel Thalken/Nebraska Communications

Schweihofer Overcomes Scary Fall For Big Ten Title

By Brian Rosenthal

Like most gymnasts, Megan Schweihofer has experienced her shares of slips and accidents, whether during competition or practice.

Most of her blunders, she said, have come on the uneven bars, usually after peeling or sling-shoting or coming back and hitting the bar itself.

Never, though, had Schweihofer left the gym in a neck brace.

Until last Tuesday, that is.

Four days later, Schweihofer, a junior on the Nebraska women’s gymnastics team, won the Big Ten Conference all-around title.

“I really didn’t think I was going to be competing. I mean, I was just walking out of practice in a neck brace,” Schweihofer said. “I felt like my weekend was over.”

Weekend?

She’s fortunate it wasn’t her career.

Or worse.

Schweihofer was on the balance beam in practice, preparing for her series, when her front foot slid on her takeoff.

“I literally face-planted,” Schweihofer said. “I slide down the side of the beam. I twisted my neck funny.”

Assistant coach Heather Brink was immediately at her side and trainer Tom Dufresne came rushing to aid. They told her to stay still.

“It was more scary than anything,” Schweihofer. “I knew I was OK, but I had the wind knocked out of me and had a hard time breathing. A lot of things cracked. Nothing broke, though.”

Dufresne sent her to Dr. Lonnie Albers, who sent her to the emergency room for precautionary measures. X-rays revealed no broken bones, and Schweihofer was diagnosed with a severe neck strain.

The entire moment was captured on video. Schweihofer watched it to see where she went wrong. Head coach Dan Kendig, who didn’t see the accident in person, can’t bring himself to watch the the replay.

“All I knew is that night, everything was OK,” Kendig said. “That’s all I needed to know.”

Schweihofer returned to the gym Wednesday and did a series on beam “only to prove to myself that I could do it,” but the muscle relaxers she took left her too sluggish to do much.

“I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do,” she said.

Nebraska traveled to the Big Ten meet on Thursday and had a practice day on Friday, but Schweihofer didn’t participate. She had, however, stopped taking the muscle relaxers Thursday night, hoping to be feeling well enough to perform on Saturday.

“Basically, I was hurting more, but mentally, I was better,” she said.

And guess on which event the previous Nebraska competitor had just taken a fall, putting enormous pressure on Schweihofer?

Yep, the balance beam, an event Schweihofer admits she’s struggled the most with confidence throughout her career.

“I kind of forget about my (accident),” she said. “I was like, ‘You’ve got this, you’ve done this beam routine thousands of times.”

She came through strong with a 9.85.

“It was just so spectacular, because that is something I’ve struggled with,” Schweihofer said. “My confidence is normally shaken after somebody falls.”

In fact, this was the third straight meet Schweihofer has followed a teammate on beam who’d just fallen.

Kendig said when Schweihofer’s focus is on the team, she comes through better in those circumstances.

“She went up and did her job and was relaxed,” Kendig said. “Not only did she do her job, she did it very, very well.”

Schweihofer won the Big Ten all-around title outright with a career-best score of 39.525. She also shared the Big Ten floor title with Briannah Tsang of Penn State with a career-high score of 9.95. In addition to her beam, she added a 9.825 on vault.

“She’s a pretty tough kid. She’s a junior, she’s taken more ownership of the team as far as importance of everything,” Kendig said.

“She’s worked hard. She’s worked very diligently in making herself better. Obviously, she proved her toughness and she doesn’t really have a weak event.”

Nebraska won its session at the Big Ten meet but finished second overall to Michigan. On Monday, the Huskers learned they’ll be the No. 2 seed at the North Carolina State regional on April 7. The No. 1 seed is LSU. The top two teams advance to the NCAA Championships.

“I think we’re in a tough region, but this time of the year, I think everybody can say that,” Kendig said.

“We’re finally now in a situation when we’re one and done. At this point, you’ve got to stay focused on just you. That’s all you can control. Tune out the outside noise, let's go in relaxed and focused and come out swinging.”

Reach Brian at brosenthal@huskers.com or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.

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