LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska head women’s gymnastics coach Heather Brink never questioned Sienna Crouse’s ability to be an impact performer for the Cornhuskers.
Brink just needed to convince the Fargo South graduate of her potential.
“It was getting Sienna to believe she could be that good,” Brink said.
A senior, Crouse is a three-time NCAA Division I All-American, earning first-team honors in 2017 on vault and 2018 on floor exercise. She also earned second-team honors in 2018 on vault.
“She’s probably one of the most talented athletes we’ve had,” said Brink, who is in her first season as Cornhuskers head coach and has been on the coaching staff since 2012.
The 5-foot-3 Crouse is set to compete in the NCAA Championships, which start Friday, April 19, in Fort Worth, Texas. She will compete in all-around in her fourth and final time at nationals.
“My senior season, it feels like it’s gone by in a blink of an eye,” Crouse said. “I like that I made it in all-around for my last meet. I was never good at (balance) beam until this last year. My goal was to do all-around for Nebraska.”
Whitney Beck, the competitive director at American Gold Gymnastics in Fargo, coached Crouse prior to her joining the Nebraska program. Beck has enjoyed watching Crouse blossom into a top-flight college gymnast. Beck started coaching Crouse, a 2015 high school graduate, in 2010.
“This year it’s been so much fun to watch her because she has been so loose and comfortable,” Beck said. “I still get kind of teary-eyed when I watch her.”
Crouse said she wasn’t sure she wanted to be a college gymnast until around her junior year in high school. Injuries were part of the reason. She had a hip injury as a high school freshman and that was followed with an ankle injury as a sophomore that required surgery. Crouse added she also dealt with shoulder issues.
“I didn’t plan on doing college gymnastics,” Crouse said.
That started to change on a trip to Lincoln. Crouse said she was a high school junior when she went to Nebraska’s senior night to watch family friend Emily Wong, from Grand Forks, N.D. That trip got Crouse interested in continuing her gymnastics career past high school.
“Sienna isn’t going to say she’s going to do something unless she’s fully committed to it,” Brink said. “When she makes her mind up to do something, she’ll do it 150%.”
Brink said Nebraska didn’t have a four-year scholarship available for Crouse during recruitment. The Cornhuskers offered a two-year scholarship initially. Crouse said she also considered Utah, Southern Utah and Iowa before she committed to Nebraska.
“It had the home feel,” Crouse said. “That’s ultimately why I chose Nebraska.”
Crouse committed to Nebraska as a high school junior, a late commitment for an athlete of Crouse’s caliber, Beck said.
“Normally, you commit to a college when you are in eighth or ninth grade,” Crouse said.
“Her career is coming to an end as it should,” Beck said. “In the end, everything worked out. It’s been a wonderful, exciting roller coaster of a career that is coming to an end at the right spot.”
Crouse said her confidence in the balance beam is what has been the difference in her becoming a top performer in the all-around as a senior. She said it was an event she focused on improving last summer.
“Sienna has been this good on balance beam the whole time. It’s just a matter of her believing in it,” Brink said. “You want to see (your athletes) grow and mature into their own confidence and to be strong women is ultimately what you strive for as a coach. That’s where the most growth and satisfaction has come.”
Crouse said one of the reasons she loves gymnastics is the quest for perfection.
“I’m such a perfectionist and this sport is based on a perfect score, you never really top out,” Crouse said. “There is always more that I can do.”