I followed Nancy Thies as the best gymnast on the Illini team. In 1978, I won the Big Ten title on balance beam, although that was before the conference officially sanctioned the competition. I made the all-regional team in 1980, a year before I completed by Illini career.
In 1980, I ended a 10-year Illini drought by winning an NCAA title in men''s gymnastics. My crown came in the pommel horse, an event I ruled at the Big Ten meet in 1979 and ''80. My prowess in the pommel horse also earned me All-America honors in 1978 and ''80. My top score in my signature event – 9.85 – still ranks among the top five all time at Illinois. I performances in the gym and the classroom earned me the Big Ten Medal of Honor in 1980.
I am one of the greatest Illini gymnasts ever in floor exercise. I share the UI record for the event with David Zeddies at 9.90 (set under the college scoring system in effect through 2000). During my career, I recorded five of the top seven all-time UI scores in floor exercise. In 1989, I won Big Ten titles in my signature event and in the vault. I was a two-time All-American in floor exercise and a one-time All-American in vault.
I am one of 11 female gymnasts in UI history to earn first team All-Big Ten honors. I earned that distinction in 1999, when I tied for the conference championship in the balance beam. My best score was a 9.90, which I achieved several times. I also had a 9.90 once on parallel bars and once in floor exercise.
I was the dominant gymnast at the 1950 Big Ten meet for league champion Illinois. En route to the all-around title, I won both the pommel horse and horizontal bar. That same year I earned All-America honors in the horizontal bar and parallel bars, helping the Illini win their first NCAA team title since 1942. I repeated as the Big Ten pommel horse champion in 1951, giving Illinois its seventh league crown in that event in nine years.
I coached Illini men''s gymnastics for 25 years, continuing a golden era started by my predecessor, Dr. Hartley Price. During my tenure, which ran from 1949 to 1973, I guided Illinois to four NCAA titles and 11 Big Ten crowns. All 11 of those Big Ten titles came consecutively, as my Illini ruled the league from 1950 to ''60. From 1950 to ''59, only once did my Illini place lower than second at the NCAA Championships. I left my mark on Illinois prep gymnastics, too, helping establish the first invitational state meet in 1952.
In 1977, I became the second Illinois women''s gymnast to reach the NCAA meet, following Nancy Thies. I competed with her in the all-around. It was my only season of competition for the UI.
I was a two-time All-American gymnast in 1984, when I won the NCAA high bar. A three All-America, I was the Big Ten''s dominant gymnast in 1984 and ''85, capturing the all-around crown each year and winning six league titles in all. Under the scoring system in effect through 2000, I held the UI record in the all-around. I remain the only Illini ever to score a perfect 10, doing so twice in the high bar. In 1988, I became the first black U.S. athlete to compete in Olympic gymnastics. I qualified for numerous other international events, including the 1987 world championships.
I was a seven-time national champion in gymnastics from 1938 to 1940, an NCAA record matched only by Nebraska''s Jim Hartung (1980-82). Three of the titles came in all-around and three others in tumbling. I also was a nine-time All-American, including four such accolades in 1940. I ruled tumbling in the Big Ten, too. Of my five conference titles, three came in that event. In 1966 I was inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame.
I competed in women''s gymnastics from 1994 to ''97. Until 2003, when Jessica Cole matched me, I was the sole owner of the school''s vault record, scoring a 9.925 in 1996. I also shared the fourth-best score on the list at 9.875, which I accomplished twice, including once in the 1997 Big Ten championships.