Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Nebraska women’s gymnast Kylie Stone has never been known to set a lot of goals, but with her senior year fast approaching, she is wasting no time. The all-around performer has surged into her final season with the Huskers ready to make every practice count. With the motivation of daily goals, she is determined to provide a memorable finish to her gymnastics career.
“Obviously I’m not perfect, so I push that much harder to make my next practice better,” she said. “I want to stay confidence and consistent; setting goals helps me do that.”
Stone, a two-time All-American, has added her name to the list of dominant gymnasts in NU’s rich history. After missing the 2008 season with an injury suffered in preseason training, she excelled in an impressive comeback season in 2009. She hit career-high marks in every event except bars and tallied 18 individual wins on the season, including five in the all-around, one on vault, four on bars, one on beam and seven on floor. She was also a standout in the classroom, earning second-team academic All-Big 12 accolades and being named to the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll.
Stone was Nebraska’s only individual to qualify for the 2009 NCAA Championships, where she proved her will and determination once again. After suffering an injury in practice the week before the NCAA meet, she tweaked her normal routine and turned in a solid bars performance to score a 9.85 and earn the second All-America honors of her career.
The experience of competing in front of a home crowd at the Championships is one that has stuck with Stone throughout the offseason. It is also one that has moved her to motivate her teammates when looking ahead at 2010.
“I love competing for Nebraska and having our name out there, but I almost would have rather sat on the sidelines with my team (than compete alone),” Stone said. “It was not the same without them there, and I try to tell them that. It’s a big motivation for us.”
Stone was also honored as Co-Big 12 Gymnast of the Year in 2009 and credits her success to the encouragement and inspiration she received from her teammates in her rehabilitation process.
“The team knew it would be hard for me to get back into it,” she said. “They were always cheering me on. Even if I did something like a cartwheel or a round-off, they were always there.”
Before coming to Nebraska, Stone had incredible success as an elite gymnast, winning individual crowns in the all-around, beam and floor at the 2004 Canadian National Championships. Widely considered one of the top gymnasts in Canada, Stone competed at the 2003 World Championships in Anaheim, Calif., helping her country’s team qualify for the 2004 Olympic Games and making history as an individual competitor by becoming the highest-ranking Canadian all-around finisher (14th) in the history of the World Championships.
Her experience at the 2004 Olympic Games left Stone with an urge to perform even harder than she had before. After competing solely as an individual in club competition as an elite gymnast, she began to learn how to work beyond the everyday pains she experienced in practice and how to become the ultimate team player.
“I learned how to trust myself more and push myself that much harder in practice and competition,” Stone said. “You never know what is going to happen. Especially with being on a team, you have to push through those little aches and pains and hard times.”
Years later Stone is still learning daily lessons about what it means to not only be on a team, but be one of its leaders. She takes in upon herself to stand up for what is most beneficial for her teammates. She keeps them loose during practice and competition, and she does it all with a smile on her face.
Nebraska Head Coach Dan Kendig has witnessed the progression of Stone since her first days in Lincoln. Kendig and his staff look anxiously at the season ahead and the possibilities they see for her.
“She has really emerged into the role of a leader,” Kendig said. “She isn’t afraid to speak up and that is what our team needs from someone like her. She brings a lot of experience to our team and is a tremendous competitor for us. She wants to win and she feels like she has done the work and deserves to win.”
“I am looking forward to a great year from her,” he said. “This is her final go, and we are looking forward to having her electric personality out there and having her strong and healthy for the season.”