Photo by Pat Radigan
Story by Pat Radigan
A Big Red lesson in how to handle adversity
– – – – –
If you were to make predictions based solely on inspirational quotes and concepts shared on social media, you’d probably think every team in every sport is destined for a title.
But sometimes, those at the highest level lay down a gauntlet, then go out and get it done.
This is one of those stories.
Like all good sports stories, it starts with adversity. At Nebraska’s B1G Five meet in East Lansing, the Huskers had six routines that would be classified as a “miss” by scoring standards. That left Nebraska with a 194.900, more than half a point off of its lowest score of the year, and put the Huskers in the first session of the Big Ten Championships.
That may not seem like a big deal, but considering the outcome of teams in that session, it’s more significant. Since expanding to 10 teams in 2015, no team in the early session had ever finished higher than fifth place. Iowa accomplished that feat in 2015 with a score of 196.500, and that score stood as the top mark out of the first session heading into this year.
Even in the 8-team format the first session was rarely a good omen. Michigan slipped to that session and won a conference title in 2014, but in the two years before that the top team in the first session finished fourth, and did not break Iowa’s 196.500 benchmark.
With all that history against them, the Huskers were facing an uphill battle this past Saturday if they wanted to contend for a conference title. And that’s when the wisdom of social media comes into this story.
Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s silly to believe in social serendipity, but I’m a superstitious guy in that same way. I’m a 29-year-old who was recently on a job hunt, and that still didn’t stop me from tweeting random song lyrics, movie quotes and RT’ing absurd things that motivate me like I’m living my best live as a naive teenager.
Life’s more fun this way.
And it’s one of the reasons I like covering the women’s gymnastics team. Last week was no exception.
I’m sure there are plenty of posts I missed from Huskers that have successfully eluded being followed by huskers W or Corn Fed Sports, but I wanted to highlight three people I saw.
The first was Taylor Houchin, who fell victim to two of those six slips at the B1G Five. If you’ve seen Houchin compete in person, you’ll understand how crazy it is to consider an athlete of her calibur had a day like she did in East Lansing, but that’s the thing about sports. Things happen, no matter how talented you are, and no matter how good you’ve done before.
It’s a lesson she took to heart.
Stay humble, stay hungry & don’t ever listen to those that doubt you
— Taylor Houchin (@taylor_houchin) March 18, 2018
And she wasn’t the only one. Earlier in the week, I noticed a post that was shared by Danielle Breen, and later again from Kynsee Roby. It’s the one that contains the quote in the picture above, and was posted by two gymnasts who didn’t actually do too bad in the B1G Five.
Roby even hit a 9.90 on bars, a career high, and Breen chipped in a 9.825 on the beam. But with a team like the women’s gymnastics squad, it really doesn’t matter who did well and who slipped. If you want to see what a team looks like, watch this Huskers side.
You thought it was a good idea to sleep on the Huskers? Bold move.
Watch how they all know every detail of each routine, and react accordingly. Watch how the gymnasts on and off the mat do the floor dances and make the corresponding facial expressions. Watch how they build each other up in warm ups for each skill, and how they share smiles and keep each other ready to be at their best when the lights come on.
Seriously, there are times I wonder if the whole team absorbs knowledge when one of them reads a new book or finds a new quote online.
Which brings us back to the the posts, because I can promise you it was a whole lot more than a few posts on social media. This team lives for motivational messages, and after a weekend like they had at the B1G Five, I can only imagine how the coaching staff cranked the knob to MAX with a chance to rebound and compete for a conference crown.
Then came meet day, and a fitting post from Roby to set the tone for what was about to come.
83/365. MEET DAY! Ready to make some mems w my girls💕 pic.twitter.com/sJGZMdMVoQ
— Kynsee Roby (@Kynsee_Roby) March 24, 2018
From the first event, the Huskers came out on a mission. Megan Schweihofer, who went on to win the Big Ten all-around title, hit a 9.95 on the floor in the first event to claim a share of that event title.
Nebraska went on to hit its best bars score as a team this year, and added a share of two more event titles. Grace Williams, who scored a 9.00 at the B1G Five meet on beam, ripped off a 9.90 a week later to earn her spot on the podium.
And then there was Houchin.
In the second rotation of the night, and just her fourth vault run of the year, Houchin hit a 9.90 to split the title with Ohio State’s Jamie Stone. On bars, she added a 9.90 as part of NU’s big team score, and Houchin also chipped in a 9.875 in just her third routine on beam this season.
With all of those pieces clicking together, the Huskers went for a 196.950, and became the first team from the first session to finish second in the team standings. Before this year, no gymnast in the first session of the 10-team format had ever finished higher than eighth in the all-around, and no gymnast from the first session had ever finished higher than third.
Schweihofer’s 39.525 changed that, and left her alone atop the podium as the Big Ten’s best.
So why are sports so important? Because even when you don’t win a title, and don’t even compete in the right session, you can still experience some of the “best days” of your life with the people by your side.
I know because I read it on social media.