Husker gymnastics look to overcome tough slate, catapult into national team finals

LINCOLN — For the third straight year, Nebraska’s men’s and women’s gymnastics teams have qualified for nationals, and both are looking to make a return to the team finals Saturday.

The No. 7 Husker men are going to Chicago aiming to make to the team finals for the second year in a row. To do so, they have to overcome at least three teams in Friday’s qualifiers, including Big Ten rivals No. 2 Minnesota and No. 3 Michigan.

The No. 7 Husker women are going to St. Louis and hope to make their first Super Six appearance since 2014.

Like the men’s team, the women will have to defeat at least three teams to advance. Their opponents include No. 2 LSU, No. 3 UCLA, No. 6 Alabama, No. 10 Arkansas and No. 12 Georgia.

But this postseason, Nebraska’s scores show that it may once again be on track to qualify for that final day .

The Husker women took second in their past two meets, the Big Ten championships and the Raleigh regional.

At regionals , their highest team score since 2013 (197.525) earned them second place, but coach Dan Kendig has higher hopes.

“I have high expectations,” Kendig said. “This team’s talented, and they’ve done well. I know that they’re capable, and I think they’ve got to believe that. I think they do, and they’ve just got to stay focused and be confident and trust their training.”

His advice led to a couple of standout performances at the two postseason meets.

Megan Schweihofer won the all-around title at the Big Ten championships, while Taylor Houchin won the uneven bars and tied for first in the vault at Raleigh.

For Schweihofer, winning the all-around title has raised her confidence going into the semifinals.

“Honestly, I just kind of went in and trusted my gymnastics,” Schweihofer said. “I didn’t practice all week, so I was like, ‘All right, I’ve got nothing to lose.’ It just built up my confidence so much.”

That confidence boost led to a fourth-place finish at regionals in the all-around. Schweihofer is expected to compete on multiple events, if not the all-around, at the national semifinals.

Houchin also is expected to compete in multiple events, including uneven bars and vault, and she intends to go into the national semifinals with the same mindset and goals that she had at regionals.

“At regionals, I just tried to have fun and let loose a little bit and just enjoy the moment more,” Houchin said. “I always try to compete like I practice. I think if I can do that, I’ll do good.”

In addition to Houchin and Schweihofer, other Husker gymnasts expected to compete include Danielle Breen, Grace Williams, Abbie Epperson, Sienna Crouse and Kynsee Roby.

For all of them, Kendig believes focusing on the team and their routines will carry them far.

“I think the mindset they need to go in with is to be confident, stay focused on Nebraska, bring the energy like we have,” Kendig said.

“Get rid of that outside noise. We do that and we’ll have no regrets leaving regardless of the outcome.”

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