Henry Meeker wants to pave his own legacy

Meeker’s father, Brian, was a five-time All-American gymnast for the Gophers from 1979-1982.

Sophomore Henry Meeker competes in the still rings at the Maturi Pavilion on Saturday, Jan. 26.

Jack Rodgers

Sophomore Henry Meeker competes in the still rings at the Maturi Pavilion on Saturday, Jan. 26.

Paul Hodowanic

The last name Meeker may sound familiar to many Gophers gymnastics fans. 

Sophomore Henry Meeker currently competes on the team. However, years before him, his father Brian Meeker competed on the mats for the Gophers as a Big Ten champion gymnast and five-time All-American from 1979-1982.

While his father may have cemented a legacy as a Gophers gymnast, Henry Meeker is looking to make his own mark on Maturi Pavilion. 

“I think it’s important that I’m not limited by what he did in college,” said Henry Meeker. “I don’t want to have the pressure to live up to his expectations or have anyone expect them. I’m not going to be exactly like him.”

Henry Meeker has spent much of his sophomore season on the pommel horse, competing in the event five times and adding two appearances on rings. It is an uptick from his involvement last year that saw him compete twice all year.

“It feels like I’m contributing a lot more to the team,” Henry said. “Last year, I felt like I was more of a support role at meets, just cheering on the team and being able to be there for them. But this year being in lineup and contributing in scores feels really good.”

Brian Meeker competed in the all-around during his time at Minnesota, winning two Big Ten titles in the event. 

“When [Brian] was competing, I was coaching at the University of Iowa, and every time we’d see Minnesota it would be like, ‘Damn it, Meeker is here.’ Because he was that good, he was the guy,” said Gophers head coach Mike Burns.

Brian was a part of the gold medal-winning 1984 U.S. Olympic team and was later inducted into the Gophers Hall of Fame in 2006.

“I don’t want Henry to think, ‘Oh that’s what my dad did,'” Brian Meeker said. “We let Henry drive his own path.”

As a child, Henry Meeker competed with his Gophers teammate Shane Wiskus, first as adversaries. 

“[Henry] always had really good technique, he had really good air sense, he was just one of those guys that was a natural, you could just kind of see it,” Brian Meeker said.

While Henry Meeker was rising through the junior ranks, Brian Meeker tried to keep a hands-off approach.

“I know he had good coaches and I think you can actually get too involved that way. … We just wanted the coaches to set their own course, so it was intentional that I stepped back from the training,” Brian Meeker said.

Henry Meeker said he appreciated the space. 

“While my dad definitely could have been pushing me and always pestering me about it, he chose to stay mostly away from it and [let me] make my own decisions, which I really appreciate,” Henry Meeker added. 

Nowadays, Brian Meeker tries to make it to as many meets as he can, and often has a front row seat to watch his son as a judge. 

“He tries to stay as impartial as possible,” Henry Meeker said. “Obviously, when he’s judging me, even in junior level and the college level, there is a lot of scrutiny to make sure that he’s judging me fairly. … He says that, if anything, he judges me harder than the other guys.”

Brian Meeker has tried to sprinkle in notes and advice that he sees when watching him from up close. 

“I think that’s the hardest thing for Henry,” Brian Meeker said. “If I talk to him about these little things I see as a judge and he hears those things from a coach. … That’s one thing that I’ve not shied away from.”