Minnesota at Nebraska women's gymnastics, 2/3/18

Nebraska's Grace Williams (right) gives a little encouragement to Megan Schweihofer and gets a smile out of then-assistant head coach Heather Brink during a dual with Minnesota at the Devaney Sports Center last year. Brink was named the program's head coach Friday.

Heather Brink is getting the chance to create her own path as a coach at Nebraska.

The former Husker was named the permanent head women's gymnastics coach Friday. Brink had been serving as the interim coach since mid-October, following the abrupt retirement of longtime coach Dan Kendig.

"It's like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders a little bit," Brink told the Journal Star. "I'm definitely a planner and extremely passionate about this university and this program.

"Being thrown into the interim position in the middle of the year, it's kind of like you walk somebody else's path and the path has already been set. Now I can get the opportunity to forge my own path."

Brink, who will earn an annual salary of $145,000, is just the fifth head women's gymnastics coach in program history. She had served on Kendig's staff for seven seasons before taking over this year. She was associate head coach from 2016-18.

Brink was an 11-time All-American from 1997-2000. She was the first Husker woman to win an NCAA all-around national title, and the second to win an NCAA vault national title. She finished her career with six regional titles and eight conference titles, and was inducted into the Nebraska Athletics Hall of Fame in 2016.

After leaving a lasting mark as an athlete at Nebraska, she's looking forward to the chance to do the same as a coach. Brink used words like "excited," "hopeful" and "honored" to describe the job promotion, and she takes over just months before Nebraska opens a new training facility for its men's and women's gymnastics programs.

"I want to win championships," Brink said. "I'm a competitive person and I want to continue to build on the legacy that the people before have built. I'm excited to embark on the present, but also build the future."

Brink graduated from Nebraska with a degree in business, so coaching was not a thought out of college. But she missed gymnastics, and started coaching classes. That led to coaching club teams, and then there was an opportunity to coach full-time on the club level.

Kendig hired Brink at NU in 2011, and it was her hope to take over the Husker program one day.

"Heather was asked to step in to the interim coach role shortly before the start of the season, and our team did not miss a beat," Bill Moos, NU's athletic director, said in a statement. "I have been impressed with her leadership, organization and vision for the future of Nebraska gymnastics, and she has great respect from our student-athletes. It is exciting to have a Lincoln native, Nebraska graduate and former Husker national champion guiding our program."

The Huskers, ranked 13th nationally, are about one month into the season. They're coming off a season-high 197.250-point performance in a win against Illinois, and will compete at No. 10 Michigan at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Nebraska is 3-1 this season, the lone loss coming at defending national champion UCLA.

Brink is currently guiding a young Husker squad. Of the 16 gymnasts currently on the roster, 11 are freshmen or sophomores, and many of them have taken on big roles this season.

"I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of a team that has been more prepared than this particular team and now it’s just about competing with heart," Brink said. "We’re just really focusing on leaving everything we’ve got on the table, one day at a time, no regrets."

Kendig's departure came after Moos announced that there had been compliance concerns with the NCAA.

Reach the writer at 402-473-2639 or cgrell@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSSportsGrell.


Sports editor

Clark Grell is sports editor.

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