The Illinois State women's gymnastics welcomed Illinois-Chicago, Northern Illinois and No. 22 nationally-ranked Illinois to Horton Field House for the Illinois Classic quad meet Sunday, March 5. Illinois came in first with a score 196.150, Illinois State came in second with a score of 193.550, followed by Northern Illinois with a score of 193.550 and UIC finished fourth with a 193.525.


Freshman gymnast Gabrielle Cooke started her career at Illinois State hot, and hasn’t cooled down since.

The Chicago native, who has aspirations of becoming a lawyer, had some expectations to live up to. Head coach Bob Conkling hopes that she will perform exceptionally in all four events: floor, vault, uneven bars and balance bar, in every meet during her four years as a Redbird. She started the 2017 season strong, finishing second all-around, behind teammate Meredith LaRoche, at the Ozone Collegiate Classic Jan. 14.

While currently preparing for the 2017-2018 gymnastics season, Cooke remembers what inspired her to pursue this sport originally.

“When I was three, I was enrolled in a gymnastics school and then my coach noticed me, when I was four, and asked me to join his team,” Cooke said.

The 19-year-old came to ISU to perform with the gymnastics team after signing a National Letter of Intent sent from Conkling on Nov. 21, 2015. Cooke not only chose ISU for its gymnastics program, but for its academics as well.

Before she came to ISU, Cooke was a member of the gymnastics team at Lane Tech High School. During her tenure with Lane Tech, she qualified for the Junior Olympics National Invitation Tournament, where she was the floor champion.

Cooke was the captain of Irina Kudina Gymnastics for two years where she also was the vault state champion senior year. Although she achieved many great feats in her high school career, her favorite moment was getting impressive news.

“My favorite moment was when Bob called me and offered me to perform with the Redbirds,” Cooke said.

“My favorite moment was when Bob called me and offered me to perform with the Redbirds,” Cooke said.

Cooke was awarded the Midwest Independent Conference Player of the Week Feb. 7 for her performance in a dual meet against Central Michigan. She won the all-around competition with a career-best 38.950 points, including the 9.750 points she received during her second-place finish in the balance beam event.

“I felt excited at this honor because I never thought that I would receive this honor as a freshman,” Cooke said.

When the 2017 season ended, Cooke was selected by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to compete against other scholar-athletes on the dance floor during the NCAA Regional at Fayetteville, Ark.

“It was really exciting,” she said. “Because I have never been there before and it was a new experience. But I wished that my teammates were there to support me.”

Cooke finished in a tie for 17th place overall with a total of 9.825 points. A trio of gymnasts from Auburn University placed 17th alongside Cooke. Despite not advancing, the regional competition was her second-favorite memory with the Redbirds.

“It was cool to be in the regionals with the big schools,” Cook said.

Cooke and the rest of the Redbird gymnastics team will have meets again in the fall after ending this season with four first-place finishes.

JACOB KLASSEN is a sports reporter at The Vidette and can be reached at vidette_jklasse@ilstu.edu. Follow him on Twitter at @jklass350

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