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Grand Forks native, gymnast closes out season at NCAA Championships

Grand Forks native Emily Wong performs. Submitted photo.

As the Nebraska gymnastics season came to a close last month, coach Dan Kendig reflected on the season and had one disappointment with Grand Forks native Emily Wong.

“The NCAA only lets you compete for four years and that’s up,” Kendig said.

Wong closed out her season at the NCAA Championships in Birmingham, Ala., by upping her All-American totals. She received first-team All-American status in the floor and all-around and second-team All-American accolades in the uneven bars and beam.

“It was definitely exciting and memorable,” Wong said. “I can’t believe it’s over.”

It was the second straight season she was a four-time All-American at the NCAA meet.

“I don’t think it’s fully hit me yet that it’s over,” Wong said. “I don’t know when it will, but it gives me more time to focus on school with finals coming up. It’s definitely going to be hard next year and in the summer not doing workouts.”

Wong, a 2010 graduate of Grand Forks Red River, will graduate from Nebraska in December and is applying for physical therapy schools. She holds a 3.918 grade-point average.

Wong’s father, John, died suddenly last October after a stroke. After dedicating her season to her father, Emily’s story was featured in a number of media outlets.

“She’s hard to not root for because she does the right things,” Kendig said. “Throwing in what happened with her dad in October ... her being dad’s little girl, him being the head of a close-knit family and for him to be unexpectedly gone, that’s devastating. She has her moments, but she never let it interfere. She missed two weeks of school and still got a 4.0.

“She has a tremendous knack to change a negative into a positive, even the loss of her dad. She has this guardian angel now who gives her strength.”

With the help of Wong, the Huskers finished sixth as a team nationally. Kendig said it was one of the closest teams he’s ever coached.

“Looking back, it was probably my most satisfying year,” said Kendig, who has been at Nebraska more than 20 years. “It went way too fast, and I haven’t said that about a lot of years.”

Kendig hopes Wong stays at Nebraska so she could possibly be a graduate assistant. He wants her personality and drive to rub off on the next generation of Huskers.

“She’s by far the total package,” Kendig said. “I want to clone her. She’s a great gymnast and outstanding student, but she’s an even better person.

“The thing she brought to the table is that every day there was a smile on her face and she was ready to be better. That’s what I’m going to miss the most.”

Tom Miller

Miller has been with the Grand Forks Herald sports department for the past 13 years. He's also a Grand Forks native and UND graduate. 

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