FAYETTEVILLE – Mark Cook, co-head coach of Arkansas’ nationally-ranked gymnastics program, was inducted into his junior college hall of fame in a ceremony in California in February.
Cook, who has led Arkansas’ program since its inception and currently has the Razorbacks ranked No. 7 in the nation after finishing fifth in the country last year, competed as an all-around gymnast at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Calif., from 1972-74.
A team captain in 1974, he placed third in the Junior College State Championship for the Vikings in 1974 before extending his career at California State University at Chico for the two following seasons.
Cook is the first gymnast to be inducted into the Diablo Valley College Hall of Fame.
"It’s a special honor," Cook says. "There were a lot of guys on those teams who went on to be coaches and do other things. Several of them were there and it was special to see them and share this with them. It wasn’t just about me. There are so many others who are as worthy or more worthy. It was about the program and everyone who was a part of it."
Cook was also recognized for his coaching accomplishments, which include serving as a club coach at Clovis, Calif., Academy of Gymnastics from 1980-94. He helped build Clovis into a 900-student club. In his last two years, he also served as the academy director. He was named the rookie Elite Coach of the Year by the United States Elite Coaches Association in 1989. He moved into collegiate coaching as an assistant at UCLA from 1994-97 and was the head coach at Stanford from 1998-2001. UCLA won the national championship in 1997 and Stanford finished eighth in 2001.
He moved to Fayetteville and started the Razorback program in 2002.
In seven full seasons, Arkansas has earned one trip to the NCAA Super Six and finished fifth in the country in 2009, advanced to the NCAA Championship three times, earned a spot in an NCAA Regional six times, had four top 15 final rankings, placed among the top 15 in national attendance average every year, had student-athletes earn 14 All-America honors, had five Razorbacks advance to the NCAA individual event finals and had 49 earn National Association for Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches for women Academic Scholar Athlete recognition.
Cook was nominated by his former head coach, Jack Smith, and found out about the induction a few months ago.
"I was surprised," he says. "I’ve never been about awards. When you work really hard in life, things are celebrated. I think this is in part recognition of my entire career, which basically started at Diablo Valley College."
Cook and the Razorbacks are home on Friday to take on No. 40 Pittsburgh at 7 p.m. in Barnhill Arena. Arkansas closes the regular season at home again next week against Oklahoma.
Promotions for Friday’s Pittsburgh meet include a t-shirt giveaway sponsored by Jason’s Deli and a PlayStation console and game package giveaway to a UA student. Friday is also Health Club Appreciation Night. Anyone with a gym membership card will be admitted for $1.