Written by Ryan Russell, Gopher Athletic Communications student assistant
Shaun Herzog thought his 2017 was over when he did not qualify for the second day of the NCAA Finals last year, but an injury changed that and was a sign of things to come for the 2018 season.
Moments before the team was slated to start on high bar, Herzog was informed he’d perform in replacement of teammate Timmy Kutyla, who scratched due to injury.
“[Herzog] was like, ‘Holy smokes I gotta put my uniform on, I gotta get my grips on, I got two minutes to get all this done!’ He didn’t even have any time to think about what he was doing,” head coach Mike Burns said. “He just went up and hit his set. That was an indication of what his capabilities were.”
Herzog was awarded a 13.350 for that performance. It came with a new standard for his capabilities in 2018. He has been crucial to the Gophers’ success this season, as he has consistently made an impact in five events each meet.
As Herzog gears up for the Big Ten and NCAA Championships, he has a new goal in mind.
“I want to contribute on five of the events that I’m training right now,” Herzog said. “To do that and come out with a team win would be incredible for me individually and as a team. Ideally, for NCAA’s I want to get top-eight on maybe two events in the finals.”
If Herzog can do that, it would earn him All-American honors for the first time in his career. It is not out of the question, as he demonstrated in the Winter Cup last month. In that meet, he again stepped up as a late addition on a national stage.
When Burns pulled Herzog aside to inform him he was selected for the meet, he was ecstatic.
“This is a hard sport. We ask him to do a lot, physically and mentally. So to see that smile on his face, all the other stuff didn’t matter. That moment was one to remember,” Burns said.
He finished 10th on the high bar on day one, which advanced him to day two. He then finished sixth on the vault overall.
While this level of success is unprecedented for Herzog, it is far from a surprise to himself or Burns who predicted that Herzog would be the Gophers breakout star before the season even started. Herzog credits his summer workouts.
“Over the summer I trained for the national qualifier. That meet didn’t go as well as I planned, but I believe it helped me in my training to get me to where I am now,” Herzog said. “Pushing my harder events like pommel horse and rings helped the most to get me in shape.”
Burns knew the success was coming due to a “positive attitude adjustment” that Herzog had in the offseason.
“The first two years he was here, a lot of it was trying to get him to accept some failure in the gym as a learning opportunity,” Burns said. “As opposed to a beat myself up opportunity.”
Now at practice, Herzog transforms failures into learning opportunities by reviewing film and adjusting in order to improve.
“You now can see the confidence in his belly,” Burns said. “It’s obvious in the way he carries himself. Success breeds success, so it’s been nice to see him believe in himself.”
Herzog’s favorite part of the program is the same as it was when he chose the “U” as his home.
“I love the team,” he said. “I came here and I could see the chemistry. It was so welcoming and I loved it.”
After graduation, Herzog plans to stay in the Twin Cities and remain close to the program.
“To be able to celebrate his progress with him brings everybody up a notch,” Burns said. “It’s frustrating when someone’s struggling, and he’s had his struggles. Now, he’s been walking around the gym with a little bit of swagger. Who doesn’t like a guy with some swagger?”
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