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Around the Columns

Making the leap

Mary Burke

Senior Mary Burke of Inverness, Ill., performed in every all-around competition throughout her college career. Photo by Joel Kowsky

It remains to be seen whether Burke, the 2012 Big 12 Gymnast of the Year, will join that pantheon. But after leading the burgeoning program to its fourth consecutive NCAA regional — this time in Fayetteville, Ark. — she warrants consideration.

“I knew when I was taking my recruiting trip years ago that big things were going to happen with Missouri gymnastics,” says Burke, the senior from Inverness, Ill. “I’m sad that I won’t get to be a part of the SEC transition, because it is the prime conference in our sport. The atmosphere is going to help the program even more.”

When Burke arrived at MU, the team’s future was already in good hands thanks to Sarah Shire, the two-time Big 12 Gymnast of the Year. Now the Mizzou Gymnastics director of operations, Shire, BA ’10, has witnessed Burke’s athletic evolution first-hand. Burke, an Academic All-Big 12 honoree, has never missed an all-around competition in her college career — a claim even Shire can’t make.

“I was a junior when Mary arrived, and by the time I was a senior, I found myself asking her for advice,” says Shire, another Mizzou legend pictured outside the facility. “I still go to her as a friend.”

Like most NCAA gymnasts, Burke knows her athletic career will likely end after her senior season. But with dual majors in psychology and health sciences, and aspirations for graduate school, she hopes to stay connected to sports.

“I want to work with athletes some time in the future,” says Burke, who might even stick around Columbia with her buddy, Shire. “Hopefully I will get into the physical therapy program here.”