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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (March 11, 1999)
Marching Band Auditions
8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Westbrook Music Building
1:00 p.m. - 3:00 pan.
Call the Band Office at 472.2505
_ for more information
Leiter practices success
Husker dreams of winning national title at Devaney Center
FISH from page 9
had such an indelible gymnastics
career. After all, Leiter is an All
American and finished fifth at the
NCAA Championships in the all
around last year.
Not to mention that he’s also
already a cornerstone in Nebraska
gymnastics history, and not just at NU.
At the club level from the time he was
10 years old to a senior in high school,
he won the state all-around title six
times in nine years.
Such a record would command a
little more respect from teammates.
“That’s just the way it is on this
team. With me, with anyone,” Leiter
“Everyone takes their beatings. No
one is safe. It’s pretty much whoever
you’re around is going to make fun of
you. That’s what keeps it fun down
And it’s been fun for quite a while.
Plus, Leiter does have at least the
admiration from his coaches.
“Derek is without a doubt some
one I would definitely want to have as
a son,” Assistant Coach Chuck
“He’s not just an outstanding gym
nast, but he’s a nice kid and a hard
Chmelka should know.
Leiter has practiced under
Chmelka every day at NU’s gymnas
tics facility in the Bob Devaney Sports
Center since he arrived at Chmelka’s
Nebraska School of Gymnastics,
which trains in the facility, at age 10.
If you’ve been a part of Lincoln’s
gymnastics community for the last 11
years, you probably know who Derek
You probably know Bukacek, too.
Bukacek was a gym prodigy in
Lincoln well before Leiter even
arrived on the scene from North Platte.
“When he got here, I was the best
gymnast at the school,” Bukacek says.
“And quite honestly, he wasn’t very
good his first year. He was quiet and I
didn’t pay much attention to him. But
by the second or third year, he moved
up to the top.”
Chmelka said it wasn’t tough to
figure out why.
“Derek just does the little extra
things that 99 percent of the other
gymnasts don’t do,” Chmelka said
while his newest group of young gym
rats scattered around die room.
“He’s just got that innate tick
inside of him to excel when the pres
sure’s greatest This is a difficult sport.
It takes a whole lot of time and deter
mination. Because it’s so difficult a lot
of kids give up and don’t want to work
that hard. There are dozens of kids that
come here and leave. About two per
cent make it It’s those kids that make
this job worthwhile.”
Leiter’s work ethic carries over
into everything else he does, including
academics. As a 3.62 GPA carrier, he’s
been on the Big 12 Commissioner’s
Honor Roll four times. His teammates
know this. And what kind of respect
does he eet?
“Oh, yeah, another thing. He never
stops studying,” Bukacek says.
“Here’s his typical day: he gets up,
goes to class. Studies. Goes to class.
Studies. Goes to practice. Studies.
Watches ‘Seinfeld.’ Goes to bed. Oh
yeah, and feeds his fish from time to
“Watch this,” Bukacek said. He
looked over to Leiter, about 20 feet
away. “Hey, Derek, want to do some
“No, man, I’ve got studying to do,”
Leiter replies. Bukacek laughs.
Leiter doesn’t seem to mind the
abuse. He and Bukacek have known
each other for too long. The two are
known well now for trying new tricks
together, being roommates on road
trips and constantly ripping each
Truth is, Leiter does have his
In addition to being one of the top
five gymnasts in the nation last year,
he was ranked in the top 20 in five of
six events, including the vault where
he established a career best in the event
with a 9.875 at the Rocky Mountain
Open that earned him the Mountain
Pacific Sports Federation’s Gymnast
of the Week honors.
And this year, despite a bad back,
Leiter is the No. 1 vaulter in the nation,
and placed 16* at the U.S. Winter Cup
competing against top collegiate and
even Olympic gymnasts. He’s right on
the heels of the team’s all-around
leader, sophomore Jason Hardabura,
who has won four all-around titles this
He is one of six Lincoln gymnasts
who have competed for the Huskers
since 1991 and one of four who have
captured All-American honors. The
fifth, Bukacek, is a two-time NCAA
“If I had the attitude he’s had, I’d
probably be at his level,” Bukacek
“It was disappointing at first when
he passed everyone, but in the long run
it helped me out. I’m always trying to
get to his level. Any time I score high
er than him on an event, it’s kind of a
And when he gets downright seri
ous about gymnastics, Leiter can be
quite sincere, too.
After all, he’s been working in the
same room atNU for 11 years. He has
quite a vast knowledge on 30-year,
eight-time National Champion
Francis Allen’s teams’ history. And
when he talks about it, it even gives the
listener goose bumps.
“Did you know that (since 1979)
only three gymnasts have gone here
and not been a part of an NCAA
Championship team?” Leiter says,
then quickly names them.
“It’s always nice to have a home
grown kid make it for your team,”
“That says a lot about the
Nebraska program and about the
Lincoln gymnastics community, when
you have a gymnast like Derek do
what he’s done.”
Or what he could do. After finish
ing fifth last year, Leiter, along with
Hardabura, is predicted by at least
both coaches to have a sure shot at the
NCAA all-around title for two years.
And how sweet it would be for a home
town boy to do it right in his own back
yard, in Lincoln at this April’s
Ever since I was a little kid, I
wanted to go here,” Leiter says. “I just
remember those guys competing,
thinking how good they were. I saw
them on that floor when they won it all
and said to myself, ‘I want that to be
“Those guys, all the greats of
Nebraska gymnastics are going to
come back and watch the NCAAs this
year. None of us want to let them
down. It will be such a thrill if we’ll be
on the floor as champions just like they
were. I think we can do it.”
Such a moment would cap off a
career that every Lincoln gymnast
dreams of. Leiter’s been dreaming
about it every day for 11 years in that
same room. And he never once got
tired of it.
“Sure, I realize I’ve been in this
room forever, but you know what,
times change. People change. There’s
a new experience every year, every
day. That’s why I like it so much,”
Like the experiences he’s had with
Bukacek, either in serious competition
or sarcastic, insulting BS sessions.
The two go out and grab a bite to
eat at the same place they’ve been sev
eral times before. They argue and
bicker like two grumpy old men, or
whiny little children, like most long
Leiter says something obvious and
makes Bukacek laugh in ridicule. This
time, no explanation about Leiter is
needed from Bukacek, just a smile.
He knows Derek Leiter well
enough by now.
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UK coach confident
UK from page 9__
Nebraska runs is called “Kentucky
“With (Sanderford’s) knowledge,”
Mattox said, “he is going to be ready
for us. You don’t have the record he has
and not be a successful coach.”
One of die Mattox’s main worries
is Nicole Kubik. Kubik has fueled the
Huskers on both sides of the ball this
The junior guard is the nation’s
steals leader and is averaging 19.4
points per game.
“When (Kubik) is on,” Mattox
said, “their team is on. We will have to
put the clamps on her”
If Kentucky can stop the Huskers,
it will continue the Wildcats’ hot
streak. UK has won five of its last
Those numbers helped get
Kentucky into die tournament for the
first time in Mattox’s four years as die
team’s head coach.
“We celebrated, but now it’s time
to refocus on the task at hand,” Mattox
said. “It is going to be a competitive
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