The Nebraska women's gymnastics team vaulted its way to a Big Ten title.
On Saturday, the Huskers hope the same event helps carry them to a 22nd berth in the NCAA tournament.
The eighth-ranked Huskers (16-3) will compete at 5 p.m. CDT in the Morgantown (W.Va.) Regional against No. 5 Michigan, No. 17 Illinois, No. 19 Kentucky, West Virginia and North Carolina. The top two teams and top two all-arounders advance to nationals in Los Angeles from April 19 to 21.
NU trailed Michigan at the Big Ten championships two weeks ago before finishing with the highest scoring vault in school history to rally for the title. That 49.725 leads the country.
The Huskers finish with the same event at regionals.
“That's our event that we rock,” senior Brittany Skinner said.
Assistant Dan Miller said Skinner had her best vault ever at the competition. She wasn't alone.
Janelle Giblin started the Huskers off with a 9.95, followed by Desire' Stephens (9.85), Hollie Blanske (9.95), Skinner (9.95), Emily Wong (9.925) and Jessie DeZiel (9.95). The Huskers who scored 9.95 tied or surpassed their career bests.
Miller said the team did so well that a Michigan fan came up and congratulated him on what he called an amazing performance.
“It's such a momentum thing,” Miller said. “They just fed off each other. They did a real good job of being aggressive and controlled, all at the same time.”
Miller is in charge of vaulting for the Huskers. He takes a different approach than at most schools — instead of emphasizing the need to stick landings, he focuses on what gymnasts need to do to make it happen.
All the gymnasts have bought into the approach, he says, though it's been difficult. Sometimes he'll have them imagine come-from-behind situations.
“We look at it that it's about the roundoff on the board, the block on the table, how tight you are in the air and then basically making sure your body is in the right position when you land,” he said. “If you focus on the parts of it, you don't have to focus on the bottom-line, end results. It just takes care of itself.”
The landing is crucial, and Skinner said the focus on details Miller has instilled in the team are the reason the Huskers have so many outstanding performers in the event.
“I've seen our team do five of six stuck vaults, and that's like a 9.9 plus continuously,” she said. “That's huge.”
As the second seed, NU will start with the bar, then move to the beam, floor and vault. That's the same rotation as at the Big Ten championships, and Miller said the Huskers are comfortable with that order.
But Skinner said the Huskers are confident enough in each event that the order shouldn't matter.
“We know what we need to do,” she said.
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