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CelebrationKathryn Thaler WGYM vs Michigan

Women's Gymnastics

2020 Women's Gymnastics Season Review

Despite the season ending early due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Huskers women's gymnastics still had a season of highlights.  

The Huskers were 7-2 in conference matchups when the season ended, finishing third in the Big Ten standings. NU claimed first at the Big Five meet, claiming victory over Illinois, Ohio State, Iowa and Rutgers. 

The Francis Allen Training Complex became the new home of the Nebraska women's gymnastics program. The Allen Training Complex is a 46,000 square-foot state-of-the-art facility that is located just north and west of the Bob Devaney Sports Center. Practice gyms, locker rooms, team meeting rooms, athletic therapy areas and coaches' offices for both th Husker men's and women's gymnastics programs are included in the complex. 

Hassel Selected as Big Ten's NCAA Woman of the Year Nominee
Sierra Hassel of the Nebraska women's gymnastics program has been selected as the Big Ten Conference nominee for the NCAA Woman of the Year award.

Hassel is one of 161 conference nominees, selected from a pool of a record 605 school nominees. Hassel is among 161 candidates across all three NCAA divisions (including 59 NCAA Division I students) nominated for this year's honor, which has been presented annually since 1991. The award recognizes the nation's top senior female student-athlete who has excelled in the four pillars of academics, athletics, service and leadership. 

A native of Johnston, Iowa, Hassel has a list of accolades both inside and outside of the gym is staggering. She was named the 2019-20 Nebraska Female Student-Athlete of the Year award, won the Big Ten Medal of Honor in 2020 and was named a First-Team All-Big Ten selection in 2019 and 2020. In the classroom, she was named a WCGA Scholastic All-American in 2019 and 2020. She graduated in May with a degree in accounting and management.

Nebraska volleyball standout Billie Winsett-Fletcher was the first student from a current Big Ten school to have been chosen as NCAA Woman of the Year, receiving the award in 1996. Angela Mercurio of the Nebraska track and field program was honored with the award in 2019.

The Woman of the Year Selection Committee, made up of representatives from the NCAA membership, will now choose the Top 30 honorees — 10 from each division — from the conference-level nominees. The Top 30 honorees will be announced in September. From there, the selection committee will narrow the pool to three finalists from each division. The NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics will select the 2020 Woman of the Year from the nine finalists.

The Top 30 honorees will be celebrated and the 2020 NCAA Woman of the Year will be named this fall.

Houchin Named WCGA Regional Gymnast of the Year
Nebraska women's gymnast Taylor Houchin was announced as the Region 4 Gymnast of the Year by the Women's Collegiate Gymnastics Association (WCGA) on Tuesday morning. The winners from each of the nine regions were selected by a vote of the coaches in each Division.

During the 2020 season, Houchin recorded 13 scores of 9.90 or higher, and was one of the nation's best gymnasts on vault. She recorded a National Qualifying Score (NQS) of 9.93 on vault with a high of 9.975. 

Houchin recorded a score of 9.90 or higher on vault eight times in 2020. Her NQS was the third-highest in the nation and the highest in the Big Ten Conference. Houchin also received WCGA First Team All-America honors on vault at the conclusion of the 2020 season. 

This is Houchin's first-career Regional Gymnast of the Year Award.

Houchin Named WCGA First-Team All-American on Vault
Nebraska women's gymnast Taylor Houchin was announced as a Regular Season First Team All-American on vault by the Women's Collegiate Gymnastics Association on Tuesday morning. Houchin qualified for the award by holding one of the eight highest National Qualifying Scores (NQS) throughout the regular season. 

WCGA Regular Season All-Americans are determined by individual National Qualifying Score (NQS) in each event. Individuals ranked 1-8 in each event earn first-team honors, while individuals ranked 9-16 earn second-team honors, inclusive of all ties.

Houchin held an NQS of 9.93, which was the third-highest in the country. Houchin also tied her career-high on the event of 9.975 on Jan. 9 at Southern Utah. The Republic, Mo. native recorded a score of 9.90 or higher eight times through the 2020 season. She also held the highest NQS on vault of any gymnast in the Big Ten Conference.

Houchin Named AAI Award Finalist 
Nebraska women's gymnastics senior Taylor Houchin has been named one of the six finalists for the AAI Award. The award is presented to the most outstanding collegiate senior gymnast in the country and is considered the Heisman Trophy of college gymnastics. 

Houchin is joined by five other finalists, Kennedi Edney (LSU), Maddie Carr (Denver), Mollie Korth (Kentucky), Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma) and Kyla Ross (UCLA). 

Two Nebraska gymnasts have won the AAI Award in the past. Richelle Simpson won the award in 2005 and Emily Wong was honored in 2014. 

During her senior season, Houchin has led the Huskers by example. She tied her career-high on vault this season, with a score of 9.975 on Jan. 9, 2020 at Southern Utah. Through the week of March 9, 2020, Houchin has amassed 41 individual event titles throughout her career, including 15 during the 2020 season. 

She is ranked No. 3 in the country on vault with a national qualifying score of 9.930 and No. 22 in the all-around with a national qualifying score of 39.330. 

Houchin is a multiple-time All-American and All-Big Ten Conference gymnast, who has recorded career-high scores of 9.95 or higher on all four events, as well as a high of 39.650 in all-around competition. 

Houchin will look to help lead Nebraska against No. 7-ranked Denver Pioneers this Saturday, March 14 at the Bob Devaney Sports Center. The meet will take place at 7 p.m. and will be streamed live on BTN+.

Allen Training Complex Adjacent to Devaney is Perfect Fit
Once upon a time, the nation's top high school and club gymnasts would flock to Lincoln to join Francis Allen and his Nebraska men's gymnastics program, one that churned out national championship after national championship.
Recruiting wasn't much a chore. The product spoke for itself.
"I used to bring in recruits in, and 'Oh, s---, I'm coming here. You're Francis Allen," Allen said. "You know Tom Schlesinger and Jim Hartung. S---, I want to be one of those guys.' "
And so they'd sign with Nebraska, and the Huskers would win more national titles. We're talking eight NCAA Championships overall under Allen, and five straight from 1979-83. When they weren't placing first, the Huskers were either finishing as NCAA runner-up (seven times) or at least placing in the top five nationally (20 times under Allen).
Allen, now in the Nebraska Athletics Hall of Fame, had a powerhouse program rolling full steam ahead.
Then suddenly one day, after having the nation's top-ranked gymnast on campus for a visit, Allen heard a word that shocked him to his core.
"I thought I had him," Allen said. "Then on the way to the airport, 'I'm not coming. Your gym isn't big enough.' I go, 'What the …!"
The gymnast signed with heated rival Oklahoma. So did the next three top recruits in the nation over the next three years.
"And Oklahoma won every championship with those sons of b-----," said Allen, forever known for his color and candor.
Nebraska's fortunes turned, Allen firmly believes, in large part because of its facilities, which, most glaringly, lacked a floor exercise mat.
That first gymnast said 'no' 26 years ago – the same number of years since Nebraska's last national title.
Allen is no longer Nebraska's coach – he retired in 2009 after coaching the Huskers for 40 years – but he remains heavily involved in the men's and women's programs. On Friday, he was the central figure for a ribbon cutting ceremony that christened a $14 million, 46,000-square foot women's and men's gymnastics practice facility.
The Allen Training Complex.
Some 300 people, including 100 men's and women's gymnastics alumni, attended the event, which featured University of Nebraska System President Ted Carter, Nebraska Chancellor Ronnie Green, Nebraska Athletics Director Bill Moos, women's gymnastics coach Heather Brink, men's gymnastics coach Chuck Chmelka and, of course, Allen, the longest-tenured coach in the history of Nebraska athletics.
No longer, Allen said, should recruits visiting Nebraska utter that two-letter word he'd heard in 1994.
"This has got to be the best men's and women's training facility at a college in the world – not just the United States, the world," a proud, beaming Allen said after the ceremony. "This gym is something. Kids are going to come in here – I'm just telling you, they're going to see this and they're going to go, 'My God.'
"When they come in, they see it, they'll go like, 'Well, this means something, because somebody went to all the trouble to build this,' and that's the kind of momentum these guys need."
Spacious practice gyms, locker rooms, team meeting rooms, athletic therapy areas and coaches' offices for both the men's and women's gymnastics programs highlight the complex, adorned with televisions and other bells and whistles at every turn.
Appropriately, this facility is adjacent to a building named for another Nebraska sports figure every bit as iconic as Allen himself – legendary Nebraska football coach Bob Devaney.
Devaney, who also served as Nebraska's Athletics Director from 1967-1993, boasted the same candor, humor and wit as Allen, which probably explains why the two held such a close relationship until Devaney's death in 1997.
"We were close," Allen said. "The thing that I cherished the most is in 1994, I won a national championship, and he was still functional and around. He and I and Bill Byrne were in a picture together with the guys on the podium. So I gave him his last national championship and Bill Byrne's his first one (as athletics director).
"And I really liked both of them. I particularly liked both of them because they did what I needed an athletic director to do. They weren't over messing around, 'Well, you can't have that, you can't have this.' They said, 'You're going to win.'
"But Bob and I were close. I bet he'd be just ecstatic about this place."

How supportive was Devaney of Nebraska gymnastics? Allen has time and again told the story of the first time his team won the Big Eight Tournament, hosted at the NU Coliseum.
"We packed the place," Allen said. "There were people in line clear out to 14th street, waiting for tickets. So Bob gets a roll of tickets and goes out in the street, and he's hawking tickets. It was hilarious.'
"He wouldn't micromanage. He'd always say to me, 'I did some tumbling, my kids did some tumbling, I always cherish what you all are doing with those athletes. I appreciate you, so leave me alone and get to work.' "
Among the former gymnasts who attended Friday's ceremony was Anton Stephenson, who last year won an NCAA Top 10 Award, a prestigious honor that recognizes 10 seniors across the nation who excelled in athletics and academics.
"This is a new era for this team," said Stephenson, a former All-American gymnast now in medical school. "I'm going to be honest. I wish I had another year here. I wish I was just starting my career here, honestly. It's just really cool to see this program is getting the facilities and the treatment it really deserves. I can only imagine how much success it's going to bring for the future of this program."
The men's program moved across the hall from its previous cramped headquarters on the north side of the Devaney Sports Center, built in 1976. The women's program, meanwhile, founded in 1976, had previously held its practices at Mabel Lee Hall, a city campus classroom building. It's the same building that had a small gymnasium tucked away in an upstairs corner where the men's and women's basketball teams sometimes practiced – particularly for weeks like these, with the high school state tournaments taking over the Devaney Sports Center.
The Hendricks Training Complex, built in 2011, alleviated such burdens. Now, Brink's program, a constant in the NCAA Championships, will enjoy the same amenities, while Mabel Lee Hall will be torn down and rebuilt for classrooms for the college of education.
In mid-February, Brink had her gymnasts pack their belongings and board a bus as a surprise early move into the Allen Training Complex, even though it wasn't completely finished.
"I'll never forget the looks on their faces when they saw the gym and their locker room for the first time," Brink said.

As for Allen, he'll continue to visit and support both gymnastics programs in a building named after him, albeit one with no office for Allen himself. That's by his choice.
"That's not my style," said Allen, also a former Nebraska gymnastics letterman and assistant coach. "I have a room back there where I repair stuff for the team. I'd rather have that than an office."
He's serious, by the way.
"When those kids break their hand strap the day of a meet and go, 'Now what am I gonna do?' Well, I can usually fix pretty much anything."
And rest assured, nobody will tell him no.

Huskers Open Francis Allen Training Complex
Nebraska Athletics and its men's and women's gymnastics programs officially dedicated the new Francis Allen Training Complex on Friday evening. The dedication of the new facility and ribbon cutting was attended by nearly 100 gymnastics alumni as well as Athletic Department and University officials.

The Allen Training Complex is a 46,000 square-foot state-of-the art facility that is located just north and west of the Bob Devaney Sports Center. Practice gyms, locker rooms, team meeting rooms, athletic therapy areas and coaches' offices for both the Husker men's and women's gymnastics programs are included in the complex. The University of Nebraska Board of Regents approved the program statement on August 11, 2017. Husker Athletics broke ground on the complex on September 28, 2018, and a topping off ceremony was held on April 26, 2019.

Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos said the facility will be the finest of its kind in the country and he remarked about the legacy of Coach Allen.

"I never had the chance to work with Francis, but I feel like I know him real well," Moos said. "When you talk about coaching icons in intercollegiate athletics, he's right up there all-time in any sport. He loved the student-athletes, very passionate about the sport, well respected around the county and at his very core he's a winner - he's proven that with the championships he's won. No better way to celebrate than to name a beautiful facility like this after Francis Allen."

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Ronnie Green also took part in the ribbon cutting and said discussed the deep history of Husker gymnastics.

"I remember as a student here in the 1980's coming to gymnastics meets in the Devaney Center to watch world-class talent," Greene said. "While Francis led the men's program from 1964 for over 40 seasons to legendary success, our women's program got added in 1976 and it also has had legendary success. I don't have to tell you the legends that we have here in Husker Athletics and gymnastics has been a leader in that in so many ways."

Moos and Chancellor Green were joined at the ribbon cutting ceremony by University of Nebraska President Ted Carter; Brad Muehling and Grant Watson from UNL Facilities Management & Planning; representatives from Clark Enersen Partners (Design Team); and the Hausmann Construction Team (Contractor).
Nebraska Head Coaches Heather Brink (women's) and Chuck Chmelka (men's) were also on hand to recognize Francis Allen—for whom the building is named. Allen is Nebraska's legendary men's gymnastics coach who led his Husker teams to eight NCAA team championships and his student-athletes to 42 individual NCAA titles in 40 years. 

Eight Huskers Named WCGA Scholastic All-Americans 
Eight Husker gymnasts were named Scholastic All-Americans announced by the Women's Collegiate Gymnastics Association (WCGA) on Tuesday for their efforts in the classroom during the 2019-20 season.

In order to qualify for the WCGA Scholastic All-American award student-athletes must carry a GPA of 3.5 or higher for the academic school year. Taylor HouchinSierra HasselAnika DujakovichKynsee RobyMegan Verceles CarrAdnerys De JesusClara Colombo and Kylie Piringer were all listed by the association, being named Scholastic All-Americans.

Hassel and Roby were honored as WCGA Scholastic All-Americans for a third time, while Houchin each earned the award for the second time in her career. Dujakovich, Verceles Carr, Colombo, De Jesus and Piringer earned Scholastic All-America honors for the first time.

As a team, the Huskers held a cumulative GPA of 3.4515 for the 2019-20 season.

Since the WCGA award began in 1997, Nebraska gymnasts have earned a total of 116 Scholastic All-America awards.

Four Huskers Honored by Big Ten Conference
Four Nebraska women's gymnasts were honored by the Big Ten for their athletic achievements during the 2020 season, announced by the conference on Thursday. Seniors Taylor Houchin and Sierra Hassel, along with sophomore Adnerys De Jesus were honored as first-team All-Big Ten selections, while freshman Kylie Piringer earned second-team All-Big Ten honors. Hassel was also honored as a Big Ten Sportsmanship Honoree.

Houchin led the Huskers by example during her senior season. She recorded 13 scores of 9.90 or higher in 2020 and was one of the nation's best gymnasts on vault.  She recorded a National Qualifying Score (NQS) of 9.93 on vault with a high of 9.975 on vault. Her NQS was the third-highest in the nation and the highest in the Big Ten Conference. She also won 15 event titles in 2020. Houchin was named the WCGA Region 4 Gymnast of the Year and also earned WCGA first-team All-America honors on vault in 2020. This is Houchin's third career All-Big Ten honor and her second first-team selection.

Hassel finished her career as one of Nebraska's most consistent performers. Throughout her time as a Husker, Hassel has led the Huskers on balance beam and floor exercise. She finished the season as the 18th-highest ranked gymnast on floor exercise with an individual NQS of 9.915. She was also the second-highest ranked gymnast on floor in the Big Ten Conference. Hassel received Big Ten Event Specialist of the Week honors twice during the 2020 season. This is the second All-Big Ten honor for Hassel.

Piringer made an immediate impact for the Huskers during her freshman season. She added depth on vault and uneven bars, but her signature event in 2020 was floor exercise. She recorded three scores of 9.90 on floor exercise during her freshman campaign and finished the season ranked No. 10 the Big Ten on the event with an NQS of 9.875. This is Piringer's first All-Big Ten honor.

The conference also announced that seven Husker gymnasts earned Academic All-Big Ten honors. The list features both of Nebraska's seniors, Hassel and Houchin, who have each earned Academic All-Big Ten honors three times. Juniors Anika Dujakovich and Megan Verceles Carr and sophomores Kynsee RobyKaylee Quinn and Abby Johnston also earned Academic All-Big Ten honors.

To be eligible for Academic All-Big Ten selection, students must be on a varsity team, as verified by being on the official squad list as of March 1 for winter sports, who have been enrolled full time at the institution for a minimum of 12 months and carry a cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 or higher.

Huskers Recognized by NCAA for Academic Success
The Nebraska women's gymnastics team has been recognized for its continued success in the classroom, winning a national accolade announced on Tuesday.
The women's gymnastics program program earned national recognition from the NCAA for its standing in the organization's Academic Progress Rate (APR). The Huskers were honored for ranking in the top 10 percent in the APR among all women's gymnastics programs nationally. The APR provides a real-time look at a team's academic success each semester by tracking the academic progress of each student-athlete on scholarship.  The APR accounts for eligibility, retention and graduation and provides a measure of each team's academic performance. 
Nebraska has a long history of academic success and achievement across all of its sports.  Nebraska leads the nation in CoSIDA Academic All-Americans across all sports and all divisions with 338 all-time honorees. Last fall, Nebraska posted a 93 percent NCAA Graduation Success Rate (GSR), which for the seventh consecutive year, was the highest in school history.  

Success in Classroom Helps Highlight Careers of Husker Student-Athletes Hassel, Siedhoff
Luke Siedhoff had multiple track and field scholarship offers, and he set up a few official visits.
The Crete native took his first official visit to Nebraska, and then promptly cancelled the others.
"I was like, 'Ah, man, this is incredible. Like, why would I not come here?' " said Siedhoff, a senior hurdler for the Huskers. "And I've always wanted to go to Nebraska. Growing up here, there's really no other place you really want to go, if you have the opportunity."
One part of his official visit stood out in particular. Nebraska's famed academic success in athletics.
"They sold it really well when I went on my visit, just the whole academic center inside the stadium where you can study and everything," Siedhoff said. "I thought it was amazing, and all our academic advisors and stuff like that. I thought it was a great place where I could excel."
For Sierra Hassel, academics had been a huge part of her high school career, and therefore an aspect she held in high regard as she went through her recruiting process.
"So to see Nebraska had so many academic All-Americans, that really pulled me to Nebraska," said Hassel, a senior gymnast for the Huskers. "Once I got here, I really felt that support through tutors, the academic learning center and just every way Nebraska is here to help with academics as well.
"The emphasis and support of academics at Nebraska make you feel like they actually really care," she said, "and you aren't just there to do your sport."
Hassel and Siedhoff capitalized on Nebraska's academic services while adding to the school's storied history in student-athlete academic success. For their efforts, they earned the annual female and male Student-Athlete of the Year awards at Nebraska's annual Night at the Lied ceremony, held virtually this year.
"I was very surprised," said Hassel, a two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection and Big Ten Distinguished Scholar in 2018. "I know how great the other finalists were, and just knowing how much of an honor this award actually is, it's just really exciting."
Siedhoff, a three-time Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and Academic All-Big Ten selection, said he was honored to be among a group finalists that included his roommate, football player Wyatt Mazour, wrestler David Jensen and Siedhoff's best friend on the track team, pole vaulter Kevin Cahoy. All four lived in the same dorm as freshmen.
"It was pretty cool to have all of us nominated for it," Siedhoff said. "I've studied with them a lot.
"There's just so many qualified athletes out there, and a lot of them are my good friends. I thought I had what it took (to win the award), but you never know because it was so competitive and there were so many good athletes across the whole athletic department."
Hassel is the eighth women's gymnast to win the Student-Athlete of the Year award, and the third straight winner from Iowa. A native of Johnston, Iowa, she follows gymnast Danielle Breen and volleyball player Michaela Foecke, a distant relative of Hassel's.
A two-time All-Big Ten performer in gymnastics, Hassel ranked second in the Big Ten on floor exercise and anchored the Huskers' uneven bars lineup. She recorded eight event titles this season, and all nine of her performances on floor exercise and balance beam scored a 9.825 or better.
Balancing school and gymnastics was a learning process as a freshman, Hassel said, but for somebody who loves school in general, she accepted the challenge in stride.
"It's something I enjoy to do, so I'm going to do it well," Hassel said. "But it's just kind of getting to know what's best for you.
"I'm a big routine person. I knew when practice was, I knew when class was and I knew exactly when I was going to study. I'm very big on preparation. If I'm not prepared, I'm so scared. I'll prepare two weeks in advance for a class that I don't necessarily have to do that, but that's where I feel the most comfort."
Siedhoff, noting school and learning has always come easy for him, said he takes a less structured approach. Rather than stick to a strict schedule, he finds time each day to make sure he accomplishes what he needs to accomplish.
"When I sit down and do homework, I try to do it efficiently so I can go to practice and get a good practice without having to worry about school, or trying to have a social life after practice," said Siedhoff, who earned All-America honors in the 110-meter outdoor hurdles in both 2018 and 2019.
"Sometimes it's hard. Sometimes you wake up and lift and go to school all day and then go to practice and do homework the rest of the night, or have a night class. I guess I'm used to it by now."
Siedhoff, who majors in biology and Spanish, graduates in May and plans to take the MCAT this summer and then apply to med school. He wants to become either a general physician or general surgeon, while also utilizing his Spanish background, perhaps on medical mission trips to South America or practicing in a community with a high Spanish-speaking population.
Hassel will graduate with degrees in accounting and management. She will attend the University of Texas, where she will work on her Masters in sports management, with the intent of pursuing a career in intercollegiate athletics. She will attend graduate school with her twin sister, Sage.
"The people I met here, the teammates I had every season – they're all so hard working," Hassel said. "It was so awesome to be surrounded by people who were so like-minded and wanted to accomplish goals together."

Hassel, Siedhoff Take Home Top Honors at Virtual Night at the Lied
Although the setting was different than past Night of the Lied events, the Husker Athletic family came together Tuesday evening to celebrate the achievements of University of Nebraska student-athletes during the 2019-20 year.

The first virtual event recognized the outstanding performances in competition, classroom and community outreach and was highlighted by the live announcement of the major award winners, including the Male and Female Student-Athlete of the Year, the Best Male and Female Athlete and the Outstanding Male and Female Newcomer. 

Seniors Sierra Hassel (Women's Gymnastics) and Luke Siedhoff (Track) won the most coveted awards at the 30th annual event, as they were selected as the 2019-20 Male and Female Student-Athletes of the Year, respectively, by a vote of the faculty members of the Intercollegiate Athletic Committee.

Hassel is the eighth Husker female gymnast to receive the award and first since Danielle Breen in 2018. A native of Johnston, Iowa, Hassel has been an instrumental performer for the Huskers and Head Coach Heather Brink throughout her four-year career. A two-time All-Big Ten performer, Hassel ranked second in the Big Ten on floor exercise and anchored the Huskers' uneven bars lineup. She recorded eight event titles this season and all nine of her performances on floor exercise and balance beam scored a 9.825 or better. In the classroom, she is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection and was named a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar in 2018. Hassel, an Academic All-America candidate this season, has been on the Nebraska Scholar-Athlete Honor Roll in all seven semesters at Nebraska. She will graduate with a double major in accounting and management next month. 

Siedhoff is the eighth Husker male track and field athlete to be honored and the first since Drew Wiseman in 2017. Siedhoff has been a standout hurdler for Coach Gary Pepin, earning All-America honors in the 110-meter outdoor hurdles in both 2018 and 2019. He placed first or second in the 60-meter hurdles in five of six meets during the 2020 indoor season, including a runner-up finish at the Big Ten Championships in February. Siedhoff, a two-time Big Ten runner-up in the 60-meter hurdles, also qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 2018 and 2019, placing seventh in the 110-meter hurdles in 2018 on his way to first-team All-America honors. In the classroom, he is a three-time Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and Academic All-Big Ten performer. He is a nine-time member of the NU Scholar-Athlete Honor Roll and a three-time USTFCCCA All-Academic team member. He will graduate in May with a double major in biological sciences and Spanish.

Hassel and Siedhoff will be Nebraska's Big Ten Medal of Honor recipients in 2020. The conference's most exclusive award was the first of its kind in intercollegiate athletics to recognize academic and athletic excellence. The Big Ten Medal of Honor was first awarded in 1915 to one student from the graduating class of each university who had "attained the greatest proficiency in athletics and scholastic work." Big Ten schools currently feature more than 9,500 students competing in intercollegiate athletics, but only 28 earn this prestigious award on an annual basis. In more than 100 years of the Big Ten Medal of Honor, almost 1,400 students have earned this distinction.

Rachel Orozco (Bowling) capped her Husker career by being selected as the Best Female Athlete. This is the second major honor she has taken home in the last three weeks, as she was selected as the National Collegiate Bowler of the Year earlier this month. This season, Orozco posted a team-high average of 211.9 ranking ninth on Nebraska's single-season chart. Orozco collected five top-10 finishes in nine events, including a pair top-five finishes. A three-time first-team All-American, she led all Division I bowlers in three categories, including strike percentage, on her way to becoming the first Husker bowler since 2015 to be named national player of the year.

George Kusche (Cross Country/Track and Field) was named the Best Male Athlete for his performances over the past year. He qualified for the NCAA Championships in all three disciplines (Outdoor Track/Cross Country/Indoor Track) and broke school records in both the mile and the 3,000-meters during the indoor season. Kusche earned second-team All-America honors in the 1,500 meters at the 2019 NCAA Outdoor Championships and was the first Husker male athlete to qualify for the NCAA Cross Country Championship in consecutive seasons in nearly 20 years. At the conference level, he was the runner-up at the 2019 Big Ten Cross Country Championships and earned a pair of bronze medals at the 2020 Big Ten Indoor Championships in the mile and 3,000 meters.

Two of the rising stars for Nebraska's most successful programs in 2019-20 were honored for their achievements, as Madi Kubik (Volleball) and Peyton Robb (Wrestling) were selected as the top first-year performers. 

Kubik was named the Outstanding Female Newcomer after helping the Huskers to a 28-5 record and an NCAA Elite Eight appearance. She was chosen as the VolleyballMag.com National Freshman of the Year and Big Ten Freshman of the Year after averaging 2.73 kills and 2.52 digs per set last year. She had a season-high 22 kills against Purdue and had 20 kills and a season-high 17 digs in a five-set win at No. 7 Minnesota. She was the first Husker named conference freshman of the year since 2009.

Robb was named the Outstanding Male Newcomer after helping the Husker wrestling team to an 11-3 record, a No. 4 national ranking and a runner-up finish at the Big Ten Wrestling Championships. Robb posted a 20-6 record at 157 pounds and earned a third-place finish at the Big Ten Championships, including a win over second-seeded Kaleb Young (Iowa) in the quarterfinals. An honorable-mention All-American by the National Wrestling Coaches Association, Robb's six losses in 2019-20 were to ranked opponents by a cumulative total of eight points.

A total of seven student-athletes received the Outstanding Scholar Award, which is presented to student-athletes in their final season of eligibility or who are graduating next month while carrying a 3.90 or better GPA. The men's honorees include Siedhoff and fellow men's track and field athletes Kevin CahoyGivon Washington and Simon Wiedel as well as Noah Vedral (Football). The women's recipients include Elsa Forsberg (Women's Cross Country/Track) and Meghan Straub (Bowling).

The Herman Trophy GPA Award winners featured repeat winners for the first time since 2016 with women's tennis and men's cross country taking home top honors. Scott Jacobson's women's tennis team won for the third straight season and ninth time overall with a team GPA of 3.686 in 2019. The men's cross country team under Coach David Harris earned its 10th Herman Trophy GPA Award with a team GPA of 3.300. It is the most Herman Trophy GPA Awards for any Husker program. 

Life Skills presented the fourth-annual Sam Foltz 27 Hero Leadership Award Tuesday evening. This award, named in honor of the late Husker punter Sam Foltz, was presented to 27 student-athletes across all sports who exhibit strong leadership qualities, commitment to service and ability to encourage/empower peers. The Life Skills program also named five winners across all sports of its most prestigious individual award - the Heart & Soul Award. The 2020 Heart & Soul winners were Kayla Gadeken (Rifle), Sierra Hassel (Women's Gymnastics), David Jensen (Wrestling), Sinclaire Miramontez (Soccer) and Haley Thiele (Women's Golf).

Life Skills also honored the members of the Tom Osborne Citizenship Team, as a total of 296 student-athletes were recognized. Husker student-athletes volunteered to impact more than 20,000 people throughout the state of Nebraska in 2019-20.
Overall, a total of 323 Huskers earned academic medallions at A Night at the Lied. Gold medallions (93) were presented to those for highest academic honors (3.75-4.00 grade-point average). Silver medallions (79) were awarded to those for high honors (3.50-3.749 GPA), while bronze medallions (151) were presented to student-athletes with honors (3.00-3.499 GPA).

2019-20 University of Nebraska Athletic/Academic/Life Skills Awards
Female Student-Athlete of the Year & Big Ten Medal of Honor
Sierra Hassel, Women's Gymnastics

Male Student-Athlete of the Year & Big Ten Medal of Honor: Luke Siedhoff, Men's Track and Field 

Best Female Athlete: Raquel Orozco, Bowling

Best Male Athlete: George Kusche, Men's Cross Country/Track and Field

Outstanding Female Newcomer: Madi Kubik, Volleyball

Outstanding Male Newcomer: Peyton Robb, Wrestling

Outstanding Scholar Awards (7): Kevin Cahoy, Men's Track and Field; Elsa Forsberg, Women's Cross Country/Track and Field; Luke Siedhoff, Men's Track and Field; Meghan Straub, Bowling; Noah Vedral, Football; Givon Washington, Men's Track and Field; Simon Wiedel, Men's Track and Field.

Heart & Soul Awards (5): Kayla Gadeken, Rifle; Sierra Hassel, Women's Gymnastics; David Jensen, Wrestling; Sinclaire Miramontez, Soccer; Haley Thiele, Women's Golf

Women's Herman Team GPA Award: Tennis (3.686 GPA)

Men's Herman Team GPA Award: Cross Country (3.300 GPA)

Sam Foltz 27 Hero Leadership Award (27): Austin Allen, Football; Jessica Aragon, Women's Tennis; Akol Arop, Men's Basketball; Nicole Baker, Women's Track & Field; Emily Cheramie, Rifle; Cam Chick, Baseball; Audrey Freyhof, Women's Cross Country; Nicklin Hames, Volleyball; Evan Hymanson, Men's Gymnastics; Kristina Insingo, Women's Track & Field; Kaitlynn Johnson, Women's Cross Country; Taylor Johnson, Women's Track & Field; Abby Johnston, Women's Gymnastics; Noah Lukz, Men's Track & Field; Collin Miller, Football; Izzie Murray, Swimming & Diving; Estefania Prieto, Bowling; Ally Riley, Softball; Kyle Ruettiger, Wrestling; Luke Siedhoff, Men's Track & Field; Karlee Seevers, Softball; Jack Slagle, Men's Cross Country; Kate Smith Women's Golf; Jazz Sweet, Volleyball; Allison Ulness, Soccer; Ashtyn Veerbeek, Women's Basketball; Jackson Walker, Football.


NU Athletic Communications