Legendary Gymnastics Coach Nancy Baker Honored with 2022 National Girls & Women in Sports Day Minnesota Legacy Award

Posted on February 1st, 2022 by

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The 2022 National Girls & Women in Sports Day – Minnesota award winners were announced in December and legendary Gustavus gymnastics coach Nancy Baker will be posthumously honored as the recipient of the Minnesota Legacy Award on Wednesday.

Nancy Baker

The honorees, representing some of Minnesota’s most inspiring and influential individuals in girls’ and women’s sports, will be recognized at the National Girls & Women in Sports Day – Minnesota celebration on Wednesday at the Minnesota History Center in Saint Paul. The celebration, which will be conducted in conjunction with the 36th annual National Girls & Women in Sports Day, will honor 15 individuals in six separate categories. Award recipients are nominated by individuals, schools, community organizations, recreation centers, and amateur & professional sports organizations.

Baker spent her entire professional career at Gustavus and the Gustie gymnastics program, and collegiate gymnastics at all levels is better today because of it. Baker, who passed away on Saturday, March 27, 2021 at the age of 85, was born and raised in Saint Peter and graduated from Gustavus in 1956 with a degree in physical education. She returned to her alma mater in 1958 and went on to launch the school’s gymnastics program in 1962.

Baker, along with Minneapolis-based gymnastics coach Bill Watson, played a pivotal role in developing the sport by organizing workshops for teachers and athletes in the early 1960s. In 1963, Gustavus hosted the first women’s gymnastics meet in the State of Minnesota. From 1966-1982, Baker’s Gustavus teams won 15 state meets in 17 appearances. The Gusties placed second in the first regional meet and took home eighth-place honors in the first national meet in 1971.

Baker and the Gustavus gymnastics team took it to another level in 1982, when the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) hosted the first-ever national championships for small colleges and the Golden Gusties won the title. From then until Baker’s retirement in 1992, Gustavus gymnastics teams would go on to win six more national titles. In her 30-year coaching career, Baker coached five All-Around National Champions, 14 individual event national champions, and 34 All-Americans.

The coach’s impact was felt across the gymnastics landscape as she served as the chair of the AIAW gymnastics committee and as a founding member of the National Collegiate Gymnastics Association (NCGA). Baker was also a four-time Division III national coach of the year (1982, 1984, 1989, and 1992). She was inducted into the Gustavus Athletics Hall of Fame in 1997 and the NCGA Hall of Fame in 2011. Building from the strong foundation set by Baker, the Gustavus gymnastics program has produced eight team national championships, 22 individual event national champions, and 100 All-Americans as of 2021.

In addition to her incredible gymnastics coaching career, Baker taught generations of students as a professor of health and exercise science at Gustavus and was recognized with the Edgar M. Carlson Award for Distinguished Teaching—the College’s highest teaching honor—in 1983, the Gustavus Distinguished Alumni Citation in 1981, and the College’s community service award in 1990. She also served as a coach of the Gustavus swimming team, was the Women’s Athletic Director from 1970-1979, and gave back to her hometown of Saint Peter by serving on the local school board for 15 years including five as chair.

2022 NGWSD-MN Honoree Press Release

 


2 Comments

  1. Ann Marie Kopp says:

    I grew up in St.Peter, Minnesota and had the experience to go to Gymnastics Camp and follow the Gusties Gymnastics team under Nancy Baker she was excellent coach and great with everyone! I will miss her deeply and she deserves to be recognized for her accomplishment and wins at Gustavus College!

  2. Gretchen Koehler says:

    super woman Nancy congrates miss you so much