Ben Baker-Katz and Eli Cohen

After years of tireless hard work and dedication, senior Olivia O’Donnell has committed to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign on a gymnastics scholarship.

“I chose U of I because I felt like I really fit in with the team. The girls were really nice, and I really liked the coaches,” O’Donnell said. “And all my family and relatives can come to watch me compete.”

O’Donnell spent her high school career competing for club team IK Gymnastics instead of competing for the ETHS team. Colleges mostly recruit players from club teams as opposed to high school.

“I knew if I wanted to achieve my goal of competing in college I had to stay at club,” O’Donnell said. “It was hard for me, I would have loved to be a part of a team at the high school.”

O’Donnell’s career has not come without adversity. She fractured her spine during her freshman year, which put her out of competition for the whole season.

“[O’Donnell] fought all of those challenges because she is strong, patient, and a goal-oriented person who continues to progress her skills every day,” O’Donnell’s coach Irina Kudina said.

As she heads to college, O’Donnell is looking forward to being a part of a big team.

“In club, it’s more of an individual sport; you’re competing for yourself,” O’Donnell said. “In college, it’s a team sport and you’re competing for your team.”

O’Donnell will continue her gymnastics career at a UIUC, the Big Ten school that finished last season ranked No. 19 nationally.