2019 Preview – Nebraska Cornhuskers

Sienna Crouse
  • Competed AA in 7 of 15 meets in 2018
  • #1 returning RQS on VT, UB
  • RQS of 9.920 VT, 9.920 UB, 9.910 FX, 9.610 BB
Megan Schweihofer
  • Competed AA in 14 of 15 meets in 2018
  • #1 returning RQS on BB, FX
  • RQs of 9.935 FX, 9.875 VT, 9.840 BB, 9.830 UB
Kelli Chung
  • Has not competed a routine
Sierra Hassel
  • Competed 10 FXs, 9 BBs in 2018
  • RQS of 9.835 FX, 9.830 BB
Taylor Houchin
  • Limited to UB for much of 2018
  • Added VT, BB in March
  • RQS of 9.900 UB, avg of 9.890 VT
  • Competed weekly AA in 2017
Catelyn Orel
  • Returned from injury in 2018 to compete UB, FX
  • Made final FX lineup
  • RQS of 9.845 on FX, 9.800 on UB
Makayla Curtis
  • Competed 4 VTs in 2018 for 9.700 avg
Anika Dujakovich
  • Competed 4 VTs, 2 FXs in 2018
  • Avg of 9.788 VT, 9.725 FX
Kynsee Roby
  • Will miss 2019 season with foot surgery
  • Made final lineup on all 4 events in 2018
  • RQS of 9.840 UB, 9.825 UB, 9.725 FX
Megan Verceles Carr
  • Competed 5 VTs in 2018 for 9.720 avg
Adnerys De Jesus
  • Darien YMCA
  • 11th VT, 2018 JO Nationals
  • Training 10.0-start Y1.5
Sarah Hargove
  • CGA
  • 1st AA, 2018 Region 5s
Abigail Johnston
  • American Twisters
  • 2nd AA, 2018 JO Nationals
Kaylee Quinn
  • North Stars
  • 2nd FX, 2018 JO Nationals
Megan Thompson
  • Desert Lights
  • 6th AA, 2018 Region 1s
Rachel Thompson
  • Did not compete in first season

2018 – 6th
2017 – 7th
2016 – 8th
2015 – 8th
2014 – 6th
2013 – 14th
2012 – 8th
2011 – 4th
2010 – 7th
2009 – 17th

2018 was such a Nebraska season. We all spent three months not really talking about this team as a true challenger. They finished the regular season ranked 11th—even that was a significant improvement over the weeks previously—and then suddenly showed up to nationals to go, “What up turds, we’re making Super Six.”

That’s not an anomaly for the Huskers. Nebraska has outperformed its preseason ranking for five consecutive seasons now, so however you think Nebraska is going to do in 2019 right this second, it will probably end up being better than that. This year, I again don’t anticipate that Nebraska will be placed in the top 8 in the coaches poll, but Nebraska has nonetheless finished the year in the (now-coveted) top 8 each of the last five seasons. The only other schools to have achieved that are Oklahoma, Florida, and Alabama.

Yet this is also an age of transition for Nebraska. Dan Kendig abruptly retired during preseason because of compliance issues, meaning Heather Brink has taken over as interim head coach. This year’s team will also be without 13 of the 24 routines that appeared in the Super Six lineup last year. That’s…not a small number. If Nebraska is to make nationals this year, it will be another season of against-the-odds results.

VAULT 2019
Lineup locks: Taylor Houchin, Sienna Crouse, Megan Schweihofer
Lineup options: Adnerys De Jesus, Megan Verceles Carr, Makayla Curtis, Abigail Johnston, Anika Dujakovich, Kaylee Quinn

Vault has always been Nebraska’s showcase event, and though Kendig is no longer coaching the team, I don’t expect that reputation to dissipate any time soon. The big vaults are there.

The three gymnasts returning to the lineup from last season—Houchin, Crouse, and Schweihofer—should lead the way with the team’s top scores once again. Houchin has shown a 9.950-worthy Y1.5 that’s turning into a DTY this season, Crouse typically breaks the 9.9 barrier for her 1.5, and Schweihofer has a consistently massive full that’s also 1.5able.

In terms of new routines, I expect to see plenty of freshman Adnerys De Jesus on vault, who has shown super distance on a 1.5, and the rest of the roster should present more than enough viable options for the remaining spots. Last season, we were excited by the vault possibility from Megan Verceles Carr since she competed a 1.5 in JO. It never really came together, but she’ll remain an option this season, as will Makayla Curtis, who vaulted a few times in 2018. Several of the other freshmen like Abigail Johnston also present perfectly usable fulls.

Nebraska improving on last year’s vault scores is a realistic expectation.

BARS 2019
Lineup locks: Taylor Houchin, Sienna Crouse, Megan Schweihofer
Lineup options: Catelyn Orel, Sarah Hargrove, Megan Verceles Carr, Abigail Johnston, Kaylee Quinn

There will have to be some cobbling together of bars routines this season since Nebraska returns just four people who competed on bars all of 2018 and the freshman class is more known for its leg-event work. Handstand queens Houchin and Crouse will be essential once again for 9.9s, and while Schweihofer hasn’t always been a staple of the bars lineup during her career, she was a necessary asset last season for what was typically a 9.825-9.850.

Catelyn Orel competed bars most of 2018 for 9.800s, and I anticipate she’ll be called upon again this season. For me, the most exciting freshman bars prospect is Sarah Hargrove, someone who never quite got the big bars scores in JO but has exquisite toe point and Stalders, the tools to develop into one of the team’s top workers. Rounding out the lineup, Abby Johnston can provide a set, and while Nebraska is working to get lineup/depth options from Verceles Carr and De Jesus, I don’t expect the team to be totally overflowing with bars options. It’s a limited group in which everyone needs to come through, but the best scores are returning, which means there’s hope.

BEAM 2019
Lineup locks: Taylor Houchin, Megan Schweihofer
Lineup options: Sienna Crouse, Sarah Hargrove, Abigail Johnston, Sierra Hassel, Kaylee Quinn, Makayla Curtis, Megan Verceles Carr, Megan Thompson

Nebraska may have the most work to do on beam in developing new big scores because of the absence of Williams and Breen, but as is true for most teams, beam should also be the deepest event for Nebraska this season. The options exist.

As is now tradition, we’ll start by assessing the big three—Houchin, Schweihofer, and Crouse—all of whom should see significant time on beam this year, with Houchin counted on to provide the best set in the lineup. For Crouse, beam is the question-mark event, the one where she is least comfortable and can fall prey to tightness and inconsistency, but she does have the ability to get a solid 9.8. This year, Nebraska needs Crouse to be one of those “I figured out beam as a senior” gymnasts.

The rest of the lineup should end up being mostly newbies. Of the freshmen, I’ve been impressed by Hargrove’s beaming—she has the leaps and the extension—and I’d expect Johnston’s solid acro to get her into the main group as well. I didn’t see Kaylee Quinn in Nebraska’s most recent intrasquad routines, but she has beam potential. Of the non-freshmen, Sierra Hassel is the most experienced having competed a bunch last season, Verceles Carr didn’t compete beam last year but was quite good at it in JO, and Curtis will provide another lineup-realistic option.

It’s not a given that the 2019 beam lineup will be able to keep up with the standard of 2018’s, but it can. Much comes down to how real those potential freshman routines end up being.

FLOOR 2019
Lineup locks: Megan Schweihofer, Sienna Crouse, Taylor Houchin
Lineup options: Abigail Johnston, Kaylee Quinn, Catelyn Orel, Sarah Hargrove, Sierra Hassel, Anika Dujakovich

Floor wasn’t always a strength for Nebraska last year, but the team came through toward the end of the season to make floor their highest-scoring event at both regionals and Super Six. The scoring capability should improve in 2019 because the essential routines remain, Houchin will return, and we can look to some freshmen for significant contributions.

Houchin did not compete floor last season, having to manage a preseason injury, but she should be able to perform this season for strong scores to join what became reliable 9.9s last season from Schweihofer and Crouse.

Having Houchin back on floor is basically like getting a big-tumbling freshman. In addition to the actual big-tumbling freshmen. Abigail Johnston competed a comfortable full-in in JO that makes her look like a necessity, and Kaylee Quinn finished 2nd on floor at JO Nationals in 2019 after winning the floor title the year before. I’d like to see both of them. Orel competed for 9.8s last year and can return to the six, and Nebraska should have an additional 2-3 reasonable D-passies to fill out the necessary slate of potential early lineup/backup options.

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