Husker Gymnasts Advance to Nationals
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

Husker Gymnasts Advance to Nationals

April 02, 2017

Senior Jennie Laeng called the crowd at the Bob Devaney Sports Center “amazing” following Saturday’s NCAA regional event. The crowd of 3,808 people was exactly the support she had been looking for. That was especially true during the more challenging moments on Saturday.

“I fell on beam, finished my beam routine and everyone was chanting, ‘Go Big Red,’ Laeng said. “They were so happy. I was like, ‘OK, I’ll take it.’ It’s just a huge help.”

Freshman Taylor Houchin felt the same. As she advanced through each event, she felt the crowd’s support from start to finish. It was the boost she needed.

“For me, on vault, after I landed and I heard everyone cheering for me, it brought tears to my eyes and I don’t really cry ever,” Houchin said. “It was a really big moment for me.

“Going into my last pass on floor, you’re usually just exhausted and you go for it, do your best and I ended up over-rotating and having more power than I thought just because all of the energy around me from the fans and my team was just incredible. They definitely help in a huge way.”

It wasn’t always perfect for Nebraska. Heading into the final event, the team was barely ahead of the No. 2 seeded Boise State. As the No. 3 seed, the Huskers were the underdog vying to keep that lead. Boise State was on floor, while the Huskers were on beam.

Things were going as planned until Laeng’s routine. Halfway through, she fell. After taking a moment to regroup, she got back up on the beam and finished her routine strong. It was a moment she won’t forget.

“I am a perfectionist, as is everyone on our team, so I was frustrated with myself initially when I came off the beam,” Laeng said. “Honestly, what was going through my head was, ‘This might be my last beam routine ever.’ I kind of pulled it together and decided I was going to do this for my team and just finish it off the best that I could.”

It wasn’t over for the Huskers though. Much like Laeng had come to the rescue of her teammate Danielle Breen (who fell on bars), Breen and Grace Williams stepped up on beam to recover for Laeng.

“[Breen] came up to me after bars and said, ‘Thank you so much for that,’” Laeng said. “And then I went up to her after beam and said, ‘Right back at you, thank you.’ We have each other’s backs. When I was going up on bars, I knew I could hit that routine for my team and I know that was going through Grace and Dani’s heads on beam.”

By the end, the Huskers had clinched one of two national berths from the Lincoln Regional, alongside LSU. The team ended with a combined scored of 196.625. LSU finished with 197.450. Breen, who scored a 9.950 on beam, also earned Nebraska its only individual title for the day.

While head coach Dan Kendig joked that his team doesn’t like to make it easy, he was pleased with the overall performance. He also felt the adversity his team has faced will only benefit them in the end.

“We’ve been stressed this year already and we come out of it,” Kendig said. “Unlike last night, if anyone was watching Connecticut play basketball, they haven’t been stressed in 111 games. Now they finally got stressed and they didn’t know what to do, it seemed like… A team that talented. It’s sports. I think anything is possible and we’re going to go down and give it our best shot possible.”

Nebraska is now off to St. Louis, Missouri, for nationals on April 14 and 15. Kendig would love to see fans make the trip to cheer on the Huskers once again. If they do, he wants fans to know just what kind of impact they can have.

“The crowd can definitely make a difference,” Kendig said.

And on the first Saturday of April at the Devaney Center, the fans did just that.


To see our photos from the NCAA Regional, click here.

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