The Nebraska gymnastics team usually tries to approach meets like another practice, a tuneup for postseason competition.
Jennifer Lauer, a junior from Sioux City, Iowa, admits that could be a little difficult Friday when Michigan comes to Lincoln.
The Wolverines pretty much ruled the Big Ten before the Huskers arrived and won the past two titles. They’re ranked No. 8, are 8-0 overall and 3-0 in the league. The No. 7 Huskers are 6-0 and 3-0.
Add what NU hopes will be a big crowd for Pack the House Day at the Devaney Center, with $1 admission, and it certainly won’t be a normal workout.
“We’re really excited to go against Michigan,” Lauer said. “We’re pumped.”
Michigan will be NU’s strongest competition in the conference, assistant Heather Brink said. Avoiding mistakes will be crucial because both teams are so closely ranked.
The winner could have the inside track to winning the regular-season title, which Michigan shared last season with Minnesota.
“In the end, our biggest goal is to go out and do the best job we can do, be our own competition,” Brink said. “Stay focused on ourselves and continue to improve. It will be great practice for us to be able to handle such a pressure situation.”
It should be fun, too. Lauer said the Huskers thrive on performing before their hometown fans.
“We love hearing the crowd when we finish a routine,” she said. “We can build off of that.”
Lauer has come into her own this season, especially in the beam.
She tied her season best with a 9.925 score in the event last week against Penn State and picked up her fifth event title. That helped her earn her first Big Ten specialist of the week award. She’s ranked fourth with an average of 9.895.
“It’s pretty exciting,” she said. “It kind of proves that hard work pays off. There is still a lot to improve on. I just want to keep getting better each week.”
Lauer, who has a twin sister, Amanda, on the team, also competes in the parallel bars and floor exercise. But beam is her favorite because of the focus it requires. Her best series is a back handspring with one arm into a back layout with no hands.
Brink said it’s been interesting to watch Lauer grow in maturity while competing. She’s not perfect every time out, but she’s become more adept at making it look perfect.
“The more you do in practice, the more it becomes a habit,” Brink said. “The more it becomes a habit, the easier it is to repeat that same habit in competition. I always joke, copy and repaste that one.”
Lauer would like to copy and repaste last week’s score on Friday.
“Michigan is one of our biggest rivals in the Big Ten,” she said. “We are just going to go out there and have fun and show them what we’re made out of.”