WEST POINT, N.Y. – University of Illinois senior gymnast Luke Stannard, 2009 Visa Championships pommel horse champion, won the 2010 Nissen-Emery Award, which is given annually to the NCAA’s outstanding senior male collegiate gymnast. The award was presented at a banquet held in conjunction with the 2010 NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships in West Point, N.Y. Stannard became the third Illini to win the prestigious Nissen-Emery Award.
"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."
Established in 1966, the Nissen-Emery Award – considered the Heisman trophy of men’s gymnastics – 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 current Illini associate men’s head coach and 2008 Olympic bronze-medalist Justin Spring (2006) and David Zeddies (1989).
Stannard earned both a U.S. National title and Big Ten title in 2009 on pommel horse. He tallied a career-best five event titles this season, including one on floor exercise and four on pommel horse. He enters the NCAA nationals ranked second on pommel horse. Stannard is a three-time College Gymnastics Association (CGA) All-America Scholar-Athlete and Academic All-Big Ten honoree.
Other former recipients include: Jonathan Horton, University of Oklahoma, 2008; Matt Cohen, Pennsylvania State University, 2007; Guillermo Alvarez, University of Minnesota, 2005; Dan Gill, Stanford University, 2004; Daniel Furney, University of Oklahoma, 2003; Justin Toman, University of Michigan, 2002; Jamie Natalie, Ohio State University, 2001; Blaine Wilson, Ohio State University, 1997; John Roethlisberger, University of Minnesota, 1993; Peter Vidmar, University of California – Los Angeles, 1983; Jim Hartung, University of Nebraska, 1982; Bart Conner, University of Oklahoma, 1981; Kurt Thomas, Indiana State University, 1979; Peter Kormann, Southern Connecticut State University, 1977; and James Curzi, Michigan State University, 1966 (the first recipient).
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 and its endower. Nissen recently passed away on April 7, 2010, at the age of 96.
Illini coaches win Central Region Coach of the Year honors
In addition to the having the Nissen-Emery award winner, Illinois also swept Central Region Coach of the Year honors for the second straight year, as associate head coach Justin Spring took home Coach of the Year and Ivan Ivankov earned his second consecutive Assistant Coach of the Year accolade.
Spring, who also captured Big Ten Coach of the Year honors following the Illini’s second straight Big Ten title, has led the Illini 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 (Nissen-Emery) 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."