Kathy (Ness) Lentz wasn’t going to allow a broken tibia derail her final season of gymnastics at the University of Minnesota in 1991.
Lentz, an already highly-decorated senior gymnast, had nothing left to prove after being part of the program’s first Big Ten Conference Championship team among several other honors.
She along with four others were inducted into the University of Minnesota Gymnastics Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the Minneapolis Metrodome Hotel Jan. 26.
The neat part about the honor was being able to thank her family for their support and sacrifice from eight siblings, according to Lentz.
Combine that was the chance have her children and husband there to share in the joy, Lentz said.
“It was a great way to thank them,” she said, even though her parents couldn’t be there. Her mother Char died eight years ago and father Myles lives in a memory care facility.
During Lentz’s acceptance speech she shared memories about her mother’s version of social media, telling everyone how proud she was of her daughter’s latest accomplishments. She thanked her father for the sacrifice of working two or more jobs so they could afford the club gymnastics payments.
Lentz, a Coon Rapids High School graduate, was inducted into the University of Minnesota’s Athletics Hall of Fame as a member of the Gophers’ 1988 and 1991 Big Ten Championship teams and was named to Minnesota’s 1980’s all-decade team for women’s gymnastics.
Just weeks before the start of the 1991 season she took a bad fall during practice the first week of December and doctors gave her a 10- to 12-week recovery period after having surgery to insert two screws before she would be able to compete.
“Basically they said, ‘Your season is lost,’” said Lentz, who was having her best preseason ever and was excited to tryout new skills in competitions.
After an intense rehab period she returned to the squad for the final dual meet of the season and the Big Ten tournament the third week of March. The morning of the tournament her coaches called her in to see if she wanted to be in the lineup.
“I said I was ready and when I did compete, I won it and it was the best feeling knowing I nailed it because I didn’t know if I would ever get back,” Lentz said.
After removing the cast she started walking backward on a stair stepper to build up strength in that leg again. “I was kind of pushing it,” she said years later after capturing an individual conference title on the beam in addition to helping the Gophers clinch the team championship.
Lentz is now a three-time member of the University of Minnesota’s Gymnastics Hall of Fame. She earned several individual honors including two-time all-conference selections; four-time all-conference academic honoree and two-time All American academic.
The Coon Rapids High School graduate (class of 1987) currently lives in Andover with husband Mike and their three children Tommy (15), Anna (14) and Sam (7).
She graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the Carlson School of Management in 1991 and since 1999 has worked for the Minnesota Department of Human Services on the child support program’s system, PRISM.
As a lead systems analyst, she oversees the technical work for the court, interstate, documents and case management areas.
Lentz admitted that her work ethic is pretty high as a result of the grueling practices from junior high through her senior season over the years and expects that same level from her children.
“I expect them to give it their all,” she said. “You don’t call in sick because you don’t feel great. You have to really be sick. If you’re going to do something you give your best. Give it your all.”
The day after the ceremony, Minnesota’s gymnastics team celebrated Alumni Day by winning a quadrangular meet at the Pavilion.
The 12th-ranked Gophers upset top-ranked Michigan, No. 20 Central Michigan and Iowa State. The win was a first against a No. 1-ranked squad as the Gophers scored 196.800 points or 0.025 ahead of the runner-up Wolverines.