Bouncing around the house and leaping from the stairs, Bennet Huang was an active child with energy to burn. Given the right outlets to rein in his focus and realize his talents, Huang has since become a five-time U.S. Junior National Team gymnast, accomplished cellist, and multitalented UI student-athlete.
Huang's rambunctious nature as a child drove his mother to enroll him at age 4 in a recreational gymnastics class. The structure provided an outlet for Huang's energy, but it took years of practice to yield greater reward for the Palo Alto, California, native. "The first two years were pretty rough," says Huang. "I had a lot of potential, but I was a very hyper kid, so I didn't really focus on the details."
Huang grew more disciplined in middle school, practicing gymnastics for two hours, five to six days a week, at a gym in Pleasanton, California—an hour's drive from his home. After practice, he completed his homework in the car, leaving little free time to spend with friends. "It was a little challenging, not being able to go out," says Huang. "But I really wanted to push my limits and see how far I could go."
Huang made his first national team in seventh grade and qualified for four more, traveling to the Czech Republic, Germany, and Bolivia for international competitions. He won the Junior Olympic national all-around competition in May 2017, including event titles in floor and pommel horse. This past August, Huang earned one of 14 spots on the U.S. Men's Junior National Team but sustained a foot injury a week before the International Junior Competition in Yokohama, Japan. He's since recovered—in time for his freshman season with the Hawkeyes, where he's been named to the Big Ten Watch List and earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week and NCAA Rookie of the Week honors.
Huang discovered another natural talent at age 8 when his mother—a piano teacher—introduced him to the cello. Music took a backburner to gymnastics at first, but later became a focus as Huang won local and state competitions. He also earned top prizes in the U.S. International Music Competition and U.S. Open Music Competition—both in California—and performed in the national American Fine Arts Festival at Carnegie Hall in New York. Huang soloed multiple times with the prestigious El Camino Youth Symphony in Palo Alto and arrived at the UI this past fall well-versed in balancing academics, athletics, and the arts. In his first semester, he was an alternate winner of the UI Concerto and Aria competition.
As a gymnast, Huang's ultimate goal is reaching the World Championships or Olympics, though his long-term vision rests in music: The UI music performance major plans to pursue grad school at a music conservatory and perform with a professional orchestra or as a soloist.
In both of his passions, Huang follows a similar work ethic for success. He says: "There's a lot of practice, and you have to be very methodical and extremely detailed."