Trinity Academy of Gymnastics coach Dennis Breit saw something special in Prairie Ridge senior Clare Collins that escaped college coaches.
To a point, it even escaped Collins herself.
There were just changes needed in the way she approached gymnastics.
“It was like teaching an old dog new tricks,” Breit said. “She was remarkable, but she didn’t have any self-confidence.”
So last summer, Breit and his staff set out to change that. At first, Collins was hesitant, but Breit assured her the long-term benefits would pay off. They did last month when Collins received and accepted a full scholarship offer from NCAA Division I Ball State.
“I was at Target with my mom (Amy) getting makeup for prom when their coach called,” Collins said. “Dennis advised me that if I loved it, I should accept the scholarship offer.”
Collins told Cardinals coach Joanna Saleem “yes” right there in Target. When her acceptance to Ball State is finalized, Collins will receiver her national letter of intent to sign.
Ball State had seen Collins perform at the USA Gymnastics Level 10 Regional Meet. Until that point, Collins was headed to Southeast Missouri State in Cape Girardeau as a walk-on.
“They called Dennis within two days of the regional,” said Collins, who does not compete in high school gymnastics. “I drove there on a Tuesday and visited on Wednesday with my mom. Ball State was amazing. It was great that another school really liked me too. I can’t explain the feeling, it was awesome.”
Collins qualified for the USA Gymnastics Level 10 Eastern National Championships from Wednesday through Saturday in Jackson, Mississippi. Collins’ all-around score of 37.4 earned her a fifth-place medal and a national qualification.
“She was pliable and open to changing things,” Breit said. “Any college coach would welcome that. That regional meet was a pressure meet for her. Ball State didn’t see everything she did at regionals, but they saw the end results. We just had to get her to realize how good she is.”
Collins said many of the changes were psychological more than physical.
“Dennis’ whole approach is so positive,” Collins said. “It’s just about being there, that day, in that moment. That really helped me because before it had always been about where I would be later. That really helped me to change all my skills.”
Olson to St. Norbert: Marian Central receiver Brett Olson, a Northwest Herald All-Area first-team selection, will play football next season at D-III St. Norbert in De Pere, Wisconsin.
Olson was an Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Class 5A all-state selection after catching 47 passes for 948 yards and 12 touchdowns. He averaged 20.1 yards a catch.
Jones chooses Augie: Woodstock North midfielder Aaron Jones, a Northwest Herald all-area first-team selection in soccer, will continue his career at D-III Augustana College in Rock Island this fall.
Jones was a four-year starter and scored 14 goals with three assists last season for the Thunder. He helped lead the Thunder to an 11-12-1 record, 3-3 in the FVC Fox Division, North’s best finish in school history.
Tribuzio to Lakeland: Angela Tribuzio, a four-year varsity starter for Huntley’s softball team, will continue her career at D-III Lakeland College in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, next year.
Tribuzio has played first base, third base and catcher for the Red Raiders in her career and also has played 10 years of travel softball, including the past four years all at the 18U level. Lakeland contacted Tribuzio during her junior year and she visited the school in November.
Tribuzio met with a criminal justice professor and toured the campus and decided Lakeland was where she wanted to be for school and softball.
Gardner to Cleary: Richmond-Burton senior Ben Gardner will continue his running career at Cleary University, an NAIA school in Howell, Michigan. Cleary did not have intercollegiate athletics for a long time, but resurrected programs in 2011 with men’s and women’s cross country and golf teams.
Gardner helped R-B to third place in the Big Northern Conference last season with a 15th-place finish in the BNC Meet.
Schoepke to Dubuque: Crystal Lake Central volleyball player Rachael Schoepke will attend D-III University of Dubuque and play volleyball this fall.