Minneapolis teen makes HBCU gymnastics history

A Minneapolis teenager is tumbling into history with a surprise recruitment landing her on the inaugural gymnastics team at a historically Black college in Alabama.

The team at Talladega College will be just the second at any HBCU after Fisk University launched its program last year.

Every step in the gym is serious business for 19-year-old Diamond Cook.

But that look of concentration she wears during a routine masks the glee she feels when her floor exercise really gets moving.

"I love dancing, so that kind of comes out," she said. "I guess I just express the joy that I have doing it."

After more than ten years of training, Diamond’s dream was to compete at the college level.

But she spent her freshman year at home focusing on academics and improving her skills.

By summer, she felt ready but had no open doors to tumble through.

"A Diamond in the rough," her mother Sharon Cook called her. "Undiscovered. No videos at any of the colleges."

Sharon convinced Diamond to attend a Brown Girls Do Gymnastics camp this summer and she left doing cartwheels because of a front tuck.

It was up here on the balance beam where Diamond caught the eyes of a college coach — not just for her athletic ability, but her character as well. 

"I saw something in her, kind of like a spark and an energy that was really, really inviting," said Aja Sims-Fletcher, Talladega College Head Gymnastics Coach. "And I was like, wow, you are very good and I would love for you to be a part of this team."

"I was like ‘Yes, I would love to be on that team. I would do anything to be on that team," Diamond said.

That team is the first ever at Talladega College and the second ever from a historically Black college or university.

Fletcher is a three-time All-American gymnast who landed a gem for her inaugural team.

Diamond says it’s bittersweet to leave her home, her family, and her team.

But she’s eager to learn, especially about the work ethic it takes to vault herself to another level.

She hopes one day, gymnastics books will tell her story and she can encourage girls like herself — the same way Simone Biles, Jordan Chiles, and Suni Lee did for her.

"I’m going to be making history, which is really exciting," she said.

History starts soon.

School gets underway in August and gymnastics competitions start in January.