In the gymnastics world, recruits are not starred or ranked, because each team has different needs and each recruiting landscape is different. What often distinguishes a top gymnast from a mid- or lower-tier one is whether they’re on scholarship or a walk-on. However, in some rare cases, gymnasts turn down scholarships elsewhere and choose to walk on at a school that they feel is a better fit. Chloi Clark is one such case, and she has chosen the University of Florida to be her new gymnastics home starting in the fall of 2020.
“I had originally committed to Temple on a scholarship,” she revealed. “I really enjoyed the school, but Florida has always been my dream school. I felt that Florida was a better fit for me knowing that I had all of the resources I needed to become a better student and athlete. From the minute I stepped on campus, Florida felt like a family.” Essentially, Clark gave up a full ride because Florida felt so right to her.
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It’s Great To Be A Florida Gator! I am so excited to announce that I have verbally committed to the University of Florida to continue my athletic and academic career! I’m very thankful to have the opportunity to be apart of this incredible program. Thank you to the team and coaches for an awesome weekend and being so welcoming! I’m so excited to start this new journey and can’t wait to call this place home🐊💙🧡
From head to toe, Clark felt that she was meant to be a Gator for a whole host of reasons. Clark has been a gymnast from a very young age and a Florida fan almost just as long. “When I was younger, I started watching college gymnastics and I was drawn to Florida immediately. I went to a lot of their camps when I was younger and I always dreamed of going to Florida.” Her favorite gymnast is former Gator great Bridget Sloan, who she called “incredibly talented and charismatic.”
The camps Clark referred to are annual summer camps that most NCAA gymnastics programs hold to give young gymnasts a chance to train with college coaches, as well as to scout potential young talent for the future. It was here where she first met head coach Jenny Rowland, who is an integral part of Clark’s vision of herself as a Gator. “The coaches and staff at Florida really stuck out to me. They were very welcoming and made me feel at home. When I was first officially introduced to [Jenny], she gave me a big hug. I thought she was very welcoming and would support me in my goals inside and outside of the gym.” She knew in that moment that Florida and its coaching staff were perfect for her.
Though her class is littered with stars like World gold medalist Riley McCusker and former junior elites Eliana Lazzari and Gabbie Gallentine, Clark still has a lot to offer her new team. “One of the strengths I will bring is my vault,” she said when asked about her potential contributions to the team. “I’m training a [Yurchenko] double full right now and plan to compete it later in the year… I bring a strong work ethic and a love of gymnastics, as well as a big team spirit.” A competitive Yurchenko double full was notably absent from SEC gymnastics as a whole last season and likely will be again this year. Bringing a new Yurchenko double to the table could be a huge advantage for Florida in coming years, so if Clark can get that skill to a consistent, competitive level, it would basically guarantee her a spot in the Gator vault lineup. One of her top two goals for her final J.O. season is to be able to compete it, so she is definitely one to keep an eye on.
The following video from May 2017 is of Clark first learning a Yurchenko full. To compete the double full, she’ll add another full twist to this layout – a difficult challenge, but a possible one.
Clark seems all set to fit in with the team dynamic too. She’s competitive and outgoing, a daredevil, and she plans to study kinesiology – something hard-core Gator fans will know has been a common major on the Florida team over the years. She’s also already had the opportunity to bond with the team, being hosted for a visit earlier this year by sophomore Leah Clapper. “All of the team was super welcoming and so much fun to be around, but I really connected with Leah… she was my host when I visited and we had a lot in common. Leah was really easy to connect with from the start and the coaches did a great job pairing us together.”
Until moving to Gainesville next fall, though, Clark will have plenty to keep her busy. She hopes to qualify to J.O. nationals again; after making it for the first time last year, she’s hungry for more. When asked about her first national experience, she said, “It was a goal that I had set for myself when I started level 10. My first three seasons didn’t go as I had hoped. After a lot of hard work and perseverance, everything came together and I was able to qualify… The experience at nationals was everything I had hoped for. It was wonderful to be with a great group of girls representing region 3, as well as competing against such incredible athletes.” Keep an eye out for her new floor routine as well, which incorporates a “more collegiate style,” according to Clark. It’s choreographed by former Denver Pioneer and one-time NCAA nationals qualifier Nikole Addison, someone Clark looked up to growing up in the sport. Floor is one of Clark’s favorite events, so you can bet she’ll be showing that routine off once she’s performed it.
Chloi Clark may not be a big-name recruit, but rest assured, she will not let herself get lost in the sea of famouses coming to Gainesville for the 2021 season. Her drive and desire to challenge herself will make her competitive for lineups, her can-do, positive attitude will make her a great teammate, and her style and personality will make her a favorite to watch on the floor. Check her out @chloiclark on Twitter and Instagram to follow the rest of her journey toward becoming a Gator.