NIU gymnastics: Huskies capture historic win at home


Senior Meg Piepenbrink performs on the bars in the Huskies’ home opener Friday at the Convocation Center in the meet vs. the Kent State Golden Flashes. At 47.825, bars was the lowest score for the Huskies, who out-scored Kent State on vault and floor en route to a historic home victory.

By Steve Shonder

Gymnastics pulled off a win 16 years in the making as it took down the Kent State Golden Flashes in come-from-behind fashion Friday.

Heading into the fourth and final event at the Convocation Center, Kent State (0-3, 0-1 MAC) led the Huskies (2-0, 1-0 MAC), 144.575-144.45, but NIU used a strong performance on the floor routine to eke out a 193.75-193.025 win.

“Kent’s been a nemesis for a long time, and to get that win means a lot,” said head coach Sam Morreale. “In order to be the best, you have to beat the best.”

The win gives the Huskies their first win over Kent State in 32 tries, a losing streak that stretched back to Feb. 27, 1999.

Cleaning up on floor

No NIU individual gymnast scored below a 9.75 on floor. Senior Amanda Stepp earned an event-high 9.85 and senior Kelly Nortz placed second with a 9.8. Sophomore Brittany Wenzel tied for third with Kent State senior Amiah Mims, who scored a 9.775.

“We have a lot of confidence on floor,” Morreale said. “We go in knowing we can do well. We have really good senior leadership. [Senior] Shelby Davis started us off really well. Kelly and Amanda are hitting on all cylinders.

“This group almost expects [to hit a score of 49]. They’re more preoccupied with reaching 49.275. That they’re chasing school records show[s] how confident they are.”

Vaulting to victory

The Huskies got the meet started off on the right foot with high scores from sophomore Megan Greenfield (9.85) and Stepp (9.825). NIU finished the event with a score of 48.65.

Kent State senior Chelsea Drooger placed third overall with a score of 9.75. The Golden Flashes put up a 48.3.

Morreale said he was pleased with the Huskies’ start on vault to open the meet, which showed their confidence level.

Senior depth

So far, the Huskies have gotten great performances from their upperclassmen, and those performances are starting to spread confidence around the team.

“It helps a bunch,” Morreale said. “As we move through the season, we expect to have more freshmen and sophomores in the lineup, but the seniors have done great so far. This group does a really good job. They don’t let things rattle them, and they just move on to the next event. I can’t teach that. I can preach it. When the younger kids see them doing that it spreads to them. What this senior group does for me is almost immeasurable.”