Sienna Crouse’s favorite event is vault.
The junior competed one of two 10.0 start values on vault for the Nebraska Cornhuskers at the 2018 NCAA championships, coming in with a clutch performance in the final rotation at the NCAA semifinals.
Coming off a bye, Nebraska entered the final rotation needing just a 48.925 team total on vault to advance to the NCAA championships in the third spot. Crouse stared down the end of the runway as her team’s fifth vaulter. Her Yurchenko one and a half was great in the air—good amplitude, great distance, and just a small hop on the landing. Her score was a 9.875.
The score was more than enough to clinch the Huskers’ place in their 12th Super Six even before Taylor Houchin anchored the vault lineup. Crouse scored a 9.850 or better on 12 vaults with a season-high 9.975 coming in just the third week of the season.
The complexity of the vault is what drew Crouse to the event.
“I think it’s one of the hardest events in a sense that it’s so fast and you have to do so much in such a short amount of time and still stick the landing,” Crouse said. “Running into a vault table and then blocking off the vault and doing a twist and by the time you land — you have to know exactly where you are and the exact position you need to land in. Just the complexity of what you need to do in that short amount of time is what makes it so fun.”
Crouse began competing the Yurchenko one and a half in club but went back to the easier Yurchenko full during her freshman season. The result? More deductions on her vault, especially on her landings. She didn’t score better than a 9.800 in 11 vaults during the 2016 season.
She went back to the more difficult blind landing in the Yurchenko one and a half midway through her sophomore season, and the difficulty began to pay off. She nailed her once-uncontrolled landing for a career-high 9.9125 in the 2017 NCAA semifinals.
Crouse's consistency on vault improved tremendously after she made the switch and contributed to it becoming her favorite.
“[O]nce I changed my vault to a one and a half, it started becoming more consistent. I better understand [the landing] which is odd because it’s a blind landing so you’d think it would be the opposite,” Crouse said. “I think that as I get more consistent with my one and a half, just consistency in always sticking the landings in practice just makes it a lot easier.”
The Huskers had an up-and-down start to the postseason with a disastrous performance at the Big Five meet on March 17, where they counted multiple falls on the day and scored just a 194.900. The nerves and possibilities got the best of them.
“I think at Big Fives, we were so worried about winning so that we would take Big Ten regular season champs,” Crouse said before the squad headed to St. Louis. “That’s when we got all caught up in our nervousness and what we had to do versus what we are capable of doing.”
The team showed what it was capable of doing in the next two meets—scoring a 196.900 to finish second overall at the Big Ten championships and then scoring a season-best 197.575 at regionals. The Huskers finished just a tenth and a half behind No. 2 LSU. The team’s performance at regionals showed where it could be at nationals—right up there with the top teams—and there was still room to get even better.
“It definitely gives us a lot of confidence and shows us that we are definitely capable of competing with the teams that are ranked in the top five all through regular season,” Crouse said heading into nationals. “We definitely didn’t have our best vault rotation—I think we only had one stick and that was Taylor [Houchin]—and so there’s four tenths right there that we can contribute to our score and even get us closer to 198. It definitely boosted our confidence but we still know that there’s so much room to improve.”
The Huskers got off to a rough start on uneven bars in the Super Six finals with mistakes from both Houchin and Crouse. Nebraska counted multiple scores below a 9.600 and faced an uphill climb throughout the rest of the meet. Crouse knew her teammates would have her back.
“If someone were to fall and other girls still had to go, we know that what we do in the gym is what we’ve been doing at meets,” Crouse said. “So even though there’s a fall, everyone is still capable of hitting all their handstands, hitting their dismounts or staying on the beam. I think overall, it’s just a matter of having each other’s backs and knowing that if someone were to fall, it’s your turn to step up and have that person’s back because they would do it for you.”
After a rough opening rotation, Nebraska rebounded with a solid performance on balance beam and stellar performances on floor and vault to finish in sixth with a 196.800—just a tenth behind Utah.