|(above) Claire Hammen, who swept all five titles at the Colorado Class 5A gymnastics meet in November as a sophomore, has verbally committed to compete for the University of Denver.|
From: Reporter Herald
by Mike Brohard
Gymnasts live a life of routine, and it's one of the reasons why Claire Hammen has reached the levels she has in the sport.
But she didn't see her college plans coming together so quickly -- she'll just be entering her junior year at Loveland High School this fall. But when an offer comes that combines excellence in academics as well as your sport of choice, why wait? That's why Hammen decided to verbally commit to the University of Denver in the past week after the program made her a full-ride offer. She didn't see it coming, but she's smart enough to see a great deal when it's put in front of her.
"I just thought it was a really good fit with the team, and the education is really good," she said. "It came clear out of the blue. In April, I went down to Denver and had an unofficial visit, met the team and met a biology professor. It was just something that I love the school and the campus. It was really a friendly environment, liked the team and the coaches. It kind of fell into place."
Hammen has been a standout on the club level for years, having qualified for the Cover Girl Classic at the junior level, and that's where she started drawing the interest of colleges. People in town learned more about her when she took the Class 5A state meet by storm last November, winning the all-around title with a record score of 39.225 and sweeping the four individual events the next day, posting scores of 9.90 along the way.
Gene Kroehnke, her coach at GK Gymnastics and a DU alum, feels she could make the Pioneers' roster as an all-arounder as a true freshman.
"The University of Denver is a good fit for her competitively, and then they considered what they wanted to do academically," Kroehnke said. "Overall, we've been there a lot; she feels comfortable there. She's very familiar with it."
But it wasn't high on her to-do list. The offer came when she made her initial trip to DU. Hammen wasn't quite ready to say yes then, but a return trip for a camp last month made it clear to her, and she pulled head coach Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart aside and pledged her allegiance.
"I went down to camp, and we stayed in the dorms and I practiced with some of the girls on the team," Hammen said. "I got to interact with the team and the coaches, and it felt like it was right.
"I wasn't thinking it would come so soon, but it happened at the right time."
She would become the second Loveland gymnast to compete for the Pioneers, following Paige Schuster, who also swept the five 5A state titles back in 2004. Hammen cannot sign an official letter of intent until her senior year, and DU can't comment on her until that time, per NCAA rules.