The Nebraska women’s gymnastics team is young this season, returning just five upperclassmen. The only seniors on the team are Sierra Hassel and Taylor Houchin, who have found success individually and been a part of the team’s success during their collegiate careers.
Hassel is coming off a breakthrough junior season in which she earned a First-Team All-Big Ten selection for the first time in her career. During the season, she set career-highs on the balance beam, floor exercise and vault. Her 9.975 on the balance beam, set during the Masters Classic on March 16, is tied for the second-best score on balance beam in program history.
She also claimed three event titles as a junior, taking the crown on the balance beam twice and floor exercise once. More than any accolade, however, she said she’s most proud of the improvement she’s shown during her career.
“When I came here, I didn’t ever think I would make it this far or be this good,” she said.
For Houchin, this season marks the final chapter of a decorated collegiate career. She earned a First-Team All-Big Ten selection and Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors during her debut campaign. As a freshman, she claimed eight event titles, set the freshman program record in the all-around and tied the program freshman record on the floor exercise.
Houchin followed up a strong freshman season by winning six more event titles, including the vault crown at the Big Ten Championships and two at the Raleigh Regional. Her efforts earned her Second-Team All-Big Ten honors, second-team All-American honors on the balance beam and First-Team All-American honors on vault.
Last season, Houchin took home 11 more event titles, giving her 25 for her career. She was a First-Team All-Big Ten selection and Second-Team All-American, as she concluded the season competing on vault at the NCAA Championships.
Hassel and Houchin, who have both been involved with gymnastics since age three, each elected to come to Nebraska because it was close to home.
“I’m from southwest Missouri, so it’s about a six-hour drive,” Houchin said. “It’s far enough from home to where I feel like I’m grown up, but not too far to where I can’t go home.”
As a team, the Huskers have one NCAA Super Six appearance, narrowly missing out on a second. After the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Committee approved a shift away from the Super Six to the Regionals-Super Regionals-NCAA Championships format last season, the Huskers reached the Super Regionals.
Despite enjoying success so far, neither Hassel nor Houchin are focused on scores as much as making the most of their last ride with the Huskers.
“Just enjoy the moment, really take it all in and appreciate being here,” Hassel said of her mindset for her senior season. “Don’t get too caught up in scores or anything like that.”
With their time as Huskers drawing to a close, both Hassel and Houchin said they hope to leave a mark on the program that goes further than any scores or accolades.
“I just want the girls to remember my impact that I had here,” Houchin said. “Not so much my scores or what I got at a certain competition, but more about the attitude I have and who I am as a person.”