I lettered in gymnastics for only two years but established myself in that short time as one of the nation's best. In 1941, I was the NCAA champion in the side horse (now called the pommel horse) and parallel bars. In 1942, I successfully defended my title in the side horse. I was an eight-time All-American in those years, including twice in the all-around. I also was a five-time Big Ten champion.
I am the only Illini to receive the Nissen Award, given to the nation's top senior in men's collegiate gymnastics. My honor came in 1989, when I earned All-America status in three events for an NCAA champion Illinois team. My versatility also was evident at the 1988 NCAA meet, where I was an All-American in the all-around. I was a three-time Big Ten champion – in three different events – from 1986 to '89.
INDIANAPOLIS – Justin Spring scored a 9.3 on the high bar Friday, becoming the first Illini athlete to win a U.S. Gymnastics title.
Spring, who totaled 18.75, was named to the U.S. National Team and might compete at the World Championships on Nov. 21-27 in Melbourne, Australia.
INDIANAPOLIS – On a night of splats and spills, Todd Thornton did just enough Wednesday to edge David Sender for the top spot in the preliminaries at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships.
Thornton finished with 52.900 points, 0.50 ahead of David Sender. David Durante was third with 52.150 points.
In 1996, I received the UI's Female Newcomer of the Year award, signifying the start of an oustanding gymnastics career. That year I won the NIT championship in balance beam and was named to the Collegiate National Team in beam, vault and the all-around. In 1998, I earned All-Big Ten honors. I was a three-time winner of the program's most outstanding gymnast award.
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.