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Bob Starkell

Bob Starkell

11 seasons leading women’s gymnastics | 2009 National Coach of the Year

From 25-cent White Horse Inn wings to leading the Illini women to their first appearance in the NCAA gymnastics championships, Bob Starkell has plenty of fond memories about his 17-year stay in C-U.

“But there is one thing that will always stick in my mind,” Starkell says from Raleigh, N.C., where the coach who produced four All-Americans, five Big Ten champs and 22 all-conference honorees at Illinois is now an assistant at N.C. State.

“On one unbelievably hot late June day during summer camp, I scheduled a games day in the Quad. I felt the Quad area was a special place and it's where we always took visitors.

“On this particular day, we took a large group of campers to the Quad for activities. After a short time of participating in the games, I felt it was way too hot to continue. Any thought of praying for rain would be futile.

“Shortly after saying this to my staff, the water sprinklers started going off — almost like a greater act of God.

“To this day, I always wanted to thank the ridiculously kind groundsperson for making these young campers have their best experience at any camp. The people behind the scenes of the school operations really make a difference.”