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.

It was shortly after Chris Brooks entered the Nebraska women's gymnastics practice space in Mabel Lee Hall when the Husker assistant coach let out a booming exclamation.

"Gymnastics is supposed to be fun!"

Whether Brooks knew it or not, Wednesday's practice was indeed headed for fun. Husker head coach Dan Kendig later prepped the group on the practice breakdown, half of which were decked out in 80s-style workout garb.

(Think you're best, or worst, Jane Fonda workout videos.)

As the Husker split squads competed in each event, they would also have to complete challenges before the entire group could move to the next event. Some of those challenges? The bean-bag toss game Cornhole, sticking ping pong balls to peanut buttered pieces of bread and catching marshmallows.

The idea being, Kendig said, to add some speed and competition and fun to each rotation.

"I'm shocked. Absolutely blown away, that nobody said 'What do we win?'" Kendig continued. "Usually it's 'what do we get?' I'm blown away nobody asked it. Blown away, but very happy."

It was true. As Kendig explained the rules, you could see the palpable energy increase. Gymnasts started bouncing on the balls of their feet and hands shot in the air with questions.

So fun is part of the focus this week for No. 14 Nebraska as it prepares for the Big Ten Championships on Saturday in Champaign, Illinois. The reason? Last Saturday's B1G Five Meet wasn't much fun.

With a chance to clinch the outright regular-season Big Ten title, the Huskers finished fourth with a season-low score of 194.900.

Nebraska senior Grace Williams said there were a lot of things the team could say they did or didn't do, from preparation to mindset, and that was compounded by the fact that a lot of gymnasts had a bad day all at the same time to lead to a missed opportunity.

But the team got back in the gym this week and went back to work. And it isn't necessarily a reset after the uncharacteristic performance.

"You win some, you lose some," Williams said. "I think that's kind of our mindset moving forward. I mean we talked after the meet and kind of said 'crap happens' and we kind of just need to leave it there and move forward.

"Keep doing what we've been doing because it's been working and one day isn't going to change the course of our entire action plan, I don't think."

Kendig believes there is a reset button, but it's different for everybody and it's not a go back and start over button. Time does a lot of good things, Kendig added, and the Huskers' schedule provided some time. Sunday was a travel day and the team was off on Monday.

Williams said having Monday off was a needed break and both she and Kendig said the result was a great practice to start the week.

"We didn't come in until Tuesday and they were fit to go," Kendig said.

Because of its finish at the B1G Five Meet, Nebraska will compete in the afternoon session Saturday with Penn State, Michigan State and Rutgers, three teams that combined for three Big Ten wins during the regular season. The remaining six teams — Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota and Ohio State — will compete in the evening session.

Williams and Kendig both felt some of the struggles last week were maybe due to thinking Nebraska could just walk in and win. Based on season averages and capability, Nebraska had the ability and potential to beat all the teams it saw at the B1G Five Meet. And the Huskers beat regular-season champion Michigan during the regular season.

So it's a return to just gymnastics, Williams said, and confidence to hit routines they know they can hit will lead to success whether they come home with a trophy or not.

"It's just the gymnastics we've been doing this whole season," Williams said. "And we've had a lot of success when we can get in that mindset of we really don't have anything to lose.

"We have a lot to gain. But we don't have a lot to lose at this point."

Plus, it's another shot. And going in the afternoon session, with no byes, just one rotation to the other, allows Nebraska the opportunity to set the bar.

"We just want to do our job," Kendig said. "And I hope our job is a number that will scare some people."

Reach the writer at 402-473-2646 or crobus@journalstar.com. On Twitter @ClintRobus.


Digital sports editor

Clint Robus is the digital and assistant sports editor at the Journal Star.

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