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 19-year tenure, as Nebraska is considered among the nation's elite in both the gym and the classroom.
In the past 19 seasons of the existence of the NCAA Super Six Finals, Nebraska is one of only six programs, along with Georgia, Alabama, UCLA, Utah and Michigan, to qualify for nine or more team finals, and the Huskers have earned NCAA Championship berths in 13 of the past 16 years. Under Kendig, 35 NU gymnasts have combined to earn 117 All-America honors since 1995, nearly 10 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 13 of the past 18 conference titles, 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 18 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 440-170-4 record (.721), including a 291-68-2 regular-season record and a 149-102-2 postseason mark. He has also earned national, regional or conference coach-of-the-year honors in 11 of the past 17 seasons.
Nine of Nebraska's nation-best 13 CoSIDA Academic All-America awards in women's gymnastics have come under Kendig, while he has also produced 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.
Continued Success in 2012
Nebraska put together another outstanding season under Kendig's leadership in 2012, posting a 24-7 record that gave the head coach a 440-170-4 record through 19 seasons at NU. During Kendig's tenure, the Huskers have qualified for the NCAA Championships 15 times, making 10 appearances at the Super Six Finals. Kendig has coached 40 All-Americans to first-or-second-team honors.
The 2012 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, Emily Wong, Janelle 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 their first-ever 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.
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 repeated as a first-team CoSIDA Academic All-American, 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 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 in 1996, 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 for the first time since 1997, finishing sixth, as Brink, Oxford and Brown earned eight All-America honors. In addition, four gymnasts captured Scholastic All-America honors, while all 10 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 197.75. 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 (197.65).
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 198.30 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 NU 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 on the vault versus 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 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 Desire' Sniatynski earned second-team recognition on bars. Simpson, a nine-time All-American, was honored as the AAI American 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 their 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.
The Nebraska women's gymnastics team 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. Emily 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. Sophomore Tricia Woo earned first-team All-America honors on beam, giving her a career total of three All-America nods, and Senior Michele 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, Junior Desire' 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 10-4 overall record. Two Huskers earned three All-America honors and qualified for event finals at the NCAA Championships. Emily Parsons captured a first-team nod on beam and second-team recognition in the all-around and Desire Sniatynski also garnered first-team All-America honors on bars. Additionally, Tricia 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.
The Nebraska women's gymnastics team 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 (Evenstad and Skinner) qualified for individual event finals. Nebraska's appearance at the NCAA Championships was its 19th overall in program history.
Kendig and Huskers posted another strong season in 2011, finishing with a 22-12 record overall. Kendig guided the Husekrs 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 Lora 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 eighth such accolade of his career. He also guided the Huskers to their ninth Big 12 Championship - the first since 2007.
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.
- Head Coach, Nebraska (1994-present)
- Head Coach, Cornell (1993)
- Head Coach, Indiana University of Pennsylvania (1984-1992)
- Assistant Coach, Nebraska (1981-83)
- Assistant Coach, Kentucky (1978-80)