In midst of strong season, Lee gaining national attention

Senior Jacob Lee has a chance at winning a prestigious Nissen-Emery Award.

Mark Heise

With just four meets left in his career, Minnesota gymnast Jacob Lee has made the most of his time with the Gophers.

And now the senior all-arounder’s hard work is finally paying off with an opportunity to win the most prestigious award in gymnastics, the Nissen-Emery Award.

“Jake’s one of the top all-around guys out there,” coach Mike Burns said. “He’s always been one of our hardest workers, and he’s a smart worker too. He’s eliminated a lot of weaknesses, and he’s very deserving of the award this year.”

While having a legitimate shot at this honor, Lee’s quiet demeanor hasn’t changed much from the start of his career.

Senior Steve Vuong and sophomore Eddie Campbell, teammates from his Utah club team, both described Lee’s personality as fairly quiet and classy, while also noting his work ethic.

“Jake’s opened up a lot since coming to Minnesota, but he’s still a pretty quiet guy,” Vuong said. “He would usually keep to himself back in club gymnastics, but he’s always been self-motivated and you can tell he wants to win regardless of what he’s doing.”

And Lee’s drive to succeed has shown – especially this season, as the senior standout has fought through several minor injuries to continue putting up solid scores.

“It’s frustrating being injured when you’re trying to get better every day, because it limits the work you can do,” Lee said. “It’s something that I’ve had to fight through this year and hopefully put them behind me.”

Fortunately, Lee only faced minor injuries this season allowing him to continue competing throughout his senior year.

He has found luck in other areas as well, rooming for two years with 2005 Nissen-Emery Award winner Guillermo Alvarez.

“Guillermo was my roommate for two years, and he’s really helped me and pushed me to reach his level,” Lee said. “Now that I’m the upperclassman, I’m doing my best to help out the younger guys.”

With the stress of a sport that requires perfection, Lee finds ways to relax.

Away from the gym, Lee has grown fond of playing Texas Hold ‘Em, while shying away from high stakes gambling.

He also has an affinity for modifying cars, which is ironic considering Lee doesn’t own a car. But he was quick to mention his dream car, a 1998 Toyota Supra twin turbo. Not surprisingly, a modified car.

Lee also bonds well with his teammates and even took some heat from Campbell for losing a boxing match to the sophomore on Nintendo Wii.

“I tell him beating him in boxing on Wii translates into me being able to beat him up in real life,” Campbell joked.

But according to Vuong, Lee has the advantage over Campbell in real life.

“When we were the older guys back in club gymnastics, we’d pick on Eddie a little bit,” Vuong said. “One day Jake and I decided to throw him in the trash can. He wasn’t too happy about that, but I don’t think he’s paid us back yet.”

But antics aside, there is no question Lee is first and foremost a gymnast looking for a well-earned reward.

“We wish him the best of luck,” Burns said. “He’s worked hard, and he deserves credit for everything he’s done.”