LINCOLN -- Jennifer Lauer rarely loses her balance. Even so, she's glad to have twin sister Amanda to lean on.

"She's always there with a hug after every routine," the University of Nebraska gymnast said.

Hard to believe when they were younger, the girls used to congratulate everyone but each other at competitions.

"We were like best-of-friends, worst-enemy type of thing," Amanda said with a laugh. "We were always out trying to beat each other. But now that we're in college, it's a lot different -- it's all about the team."

It's been a season of adjustments for the East High graduates since Amanda was sidelined for the season with a stress fracture in her shin.

She could only watch as Jennifer -- her younger twin by 21 minutes -- made an instant impact for the Big Ten-champion Nebraska women.

The sixth-ranked Huskers competed on Friday at the NCAA Gymnastics Championships in Duluth, Ga, but failed to advance to Saturday's "Super Six."

As she's done all year, Amanda was there offering sideline support. Her sister's biggest cheerleader.

"I try to help her out as much as I can; keep her calm and cheer her on," Amanda said. "I let her know I believe in her."

"The cool thing is, they're so happy for each other -- there's no jealousy," head coach Dan Kendig said. "They're just genuinely happy for the success of one another."

Even when they competed against each other, the twins shared a special bond.

Once, when Amanda suffered a concussion on the beam, Jennifer recalled she "got a headache and was dizzy."

Off the mat, they've always been close.

The twins always figured they'd go to college together, and Nebraska was an easy choice. After all, they'd been attending Husker gymnastics camps since they were 7 years old.

The identical twins chose separate dorm rooms in Lincoln, but one year apart was enough -- they'll move back in together next year. They even chose the same major -- nutritional science.

The girls did dye their hair different shades before they got to college, however. Amanda is more blonde; Jennifer brunette.

"We figured we'd separate ourselves from each other," Jennifer said. "Make it easier on everyone else."

Kendig was thankful for that. "Every now and then, I've still got to look twice," he mused.

He sure didn't mind seeing double a few years ago, when he started recruiting the girls out of the Premier Gymnastics Club in Omaha.

The Lauers spent 2½ years driving back-and-forth five times a week from Sioux City to Omaha, the closest place they could generate college interest. Dad (Dan) or mom (Kim) did the driving; the girls did their East High homework.

"Get home late, go to bed and get up and do it again the next day," Jennifer recalled.

The dedication paid off. Jennifer ended up a four-time Junior Olympics national qualifier; Amanda made it twice.

At Nebraska, Jennifer started the season performing on floor and vault. But Coach Kendig's squad struggled early on the beam, and partway through the season he added Jennifer to the event.

"She got an opportunity and she made good on it," Kendig said. "She's been so consistent and mentally so tough -- it's been fun watching her grow from the time she got here last summer until now."

Two weeks ago at regionals in Salt Lake City, Jennifer led the Huskers off with a 9.725 score in the floor routine, posted a 9.8 in the beam and a notched career-high 9.85 in the vault. Her performance helped Nebraska finish second to Utah and qualify for nationals.

During Friday's NCAA championships, she scored a 9.825 on the beam, her only event.

Afterward, you can bet Amanda was waiting with a hug.

"The injury was tough," said Amanda, who has since recovered. Kendig even considered putting her in an event or two late in the season, but didn't want to burn a year of eligibility.

Now Amanda, who actually cried at her first gymnastics practice when she was 5 years old, can't wait to compete again.

And in the meantime?

"It's just good to know I can still help my teammates," she said.


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