The Nebraska gymnastics team loves competing in the big meets.
There’s atmosphere and adrenaline. And, unfortunately, noise and distractions.
“You lose your focus one minute and you are picking yourself off the floor,” Husker coach Dan Kendig said.
Kendig hopes the Big Ten championships Saturday in East Lansing, Mich., ignite an inspired performance. Nebraska will be chasing its third straight conference championship — second in the Big Ten. NU hasn’t won three straight league titles since 2001 to 2003.
“If we are on this weekend, we can do big things,” NU’s Emily Wong said. “We are capable of scoring big.”
The Huskers (9-3, 5-2) will compete in the 5 p.m. session with Michigan, Minnesota and Penn State. Illinois, Iowa, Ohio State and Michigan State will face off at noon.
Six of the teams are ranked in the top 20, including Michigan at No. 3 and Nebraska at No. 9. The Wolverines have the top seed and Nebraska is second.
The Huskers open with the bars, followed by the balance beam and the high-scoring floor and vault. Kendig likes the rotation, but said his team will need to excel in all 24 routines to keep the crown.
As always, the beam will be crucial.
“The team that wins the beam wins the meet,” Kendig said. “Having said that, we need to get started off very well on bars to get in the hunt. We need to be good on beam second. In the floor we need to have great landings. We need to do our normal vault and we should be in good shape.”
Wong said it’s on the beam where the crowd can get really loud, but the Huskers have trained themselves to focus on hearing only their own teammates and their own thoughts.
Wong did that last year and won the beam as well as the floor and all-around. the junior from Grand Forks, N.D., is not worried about repeating.
“I’ll just go out and do my thing for the team,” she said. “I just want to do my thing and win that team championship.”
Nebraska posted a 197.100 to win last year’s title. All four of the teams in the night session have posted a 197.000 or better this season, including NU’s league-best mark of 197.675.
The Huskers scored a 197.525 to beat Cal in their final regular-season meet. That gave everyone a shot of confidence.
“I feel like through the last three meets we’ve been really, really good,” Kendig said. “We need another one like that.”
That, in turn, could boost NU’s rating for NCAA regional competition starting April 6.
Kendig said it would be nice to win three straight league titles, but that’s not his focus.
“Right now, it’s to win this one in a row,” he said. “This is the one that’s important.”
Contact the writer: