Illini grow with signature of three letters of intent

By Amber Greviskes

Although the Illinois women’s gymnastics team has not yet started its season, head coach Bob Starkell is already excited about the future of the program.

On Wednesday the Illini announced the addition of three gymnasts, who Starkell feels will help propel the team to the next level.

“We are absolutely thrilled by this recruiting class,” Starkell said. “There were a lot of talented gymnasts in this year’s class, but these young ladies were on the top of our list.”

Although Nicole Cowart, Lori Hamilton and Sarah Schmidt took visits to other prestigious institutions, they chose to be Illini.

Starkell said he feels that these women have the competitive drive and spirit necessary to become the best gymnasts possible.

“These are the type of student-athletes who can help us win a Big Ten team title and qualify to the NCAA Championships.”

The last time any Illini women competed at the NCAA Championships was in 2004 when Cara Pomeroy and Ashley Williams advanced individually. The team finished fifth in the Big Ten last season and sixth in the South Central Region.

Cowart has proven to be a force at the Junior Olympic level as a Junior Olympic National Team member.

“I found a team that will love me for me and will share the triumphs and wins we earn together as gymnasts,” Cowart said.

Hamilton, who joins the team from Mississauga, Ontario, Canada said the team made her feel at home. Starkell said that “Lori has been a pleasant surprise in (the team’s) recruiting effort.”

Starkell expects Schmidt, who plans to major in kinesiology, will reach her potential while at Illinois.

“Her love and desire of the sport is shown on a daily basis,” Starkell said. “We welcome her with open arms to our Illini family.”