Luke Stannard became the third Illini to win the prestigious Nissen-Emery Award.
April 14, 2010
WEST POINT, N.Y. - University of Illinois senior gymnast Luke Stannard became just the third Illini to win the prestigious Nissen-Emery Award, announced Wednesday night at the NCAA banquet. The award is presented annually to the nation's top senior male gymnast and honors excellence in gymnastics, good sportsmanship and fair play and a high standard of scholarship throughout his collegiate career.
Stannard joins David Zeddies (1989) and current Illinois associate men's head coach Justin Spring (2006) as the only Illini to win the award since its inception in 1966. Additionally, Illinois swept Central Region Coach of the Year honors for the second straight year, as Spring took home Coach of the Year and Ivan Ivankov earned his second consecutive Assistant Coach of the Year accolade.
"It's absolutely incredible," Stannard said. "I never made this an explicit goal of mine, but to bring this back not only for myself, but for the team is just incredible. It's history. It's great to be recognized and to be able to have something I can physically hold that embodies all the work I've put into the program."
Stannard has been a significant contributor in the Illinois lineup since his arrival and has achieved much success inside the gym, specifically on pommel horse, on which he earned both a U.S. National title and Big Ten title in 2009. He's tallied a career-best five events titles this season, including one on floor and four on pommel horse and enters the NCAAs ranked second nationally on the event. Outside the gym, he is a three-time College Gymnastics Association (CGA) All-America Scholar-Athlete and Academic All-Big Ten honoree.
The Nissen-Emery Award is named in honor of George Nissen, a three-time NCAA Champion at the University of Iowa and inventor of the trampoline, for his contributions to the sport, and for Dr. Bob Emery, the 1969 recipient of the award. Nissen recently passed away on April 7, 2010 at the age of 96.
Spring, who also captured Big Ten Coach of the Year honors following the team's second straight Big Ten title, has led the squad to a 16-1 overall record in his first season at the helm and a No. 1 ranking heading into the NCAA Championships.
"Watching Luke win that award and just seeing the exposure this program is getting is the biggest reward for me," Spring said. "Ivan deserves so much credit. He's the backbone in the gym and keeps the guys in line. I feel like I've been working with him for 10 years and it's only been a year and a half. It's been a true honor working with him."
The Illini begin competition at the 2010 NCAA Championships Thursday in the first qualifying session at Noon CT/1 p.m. ET.