Entering just his fourth year at the helm of the Stanford women’s gymnastics program, Mark Cook has already established himself as one of the top coaches in the country. With a combination of fresh enthusiasm, a winning attitude and proven success, Cook has embraced the opportunity to develop the Cardinal program into one that competes on the national stage each year.
If his first three years are any indication, Cook has Stanford on the path to long-term national prominence. Under his guidance, Stanford has produced its first-ever individual National Champion, three Regional Champions and seven All-Americans. In 1998, Cook’s squad captured the first Pacific-10 Championship in program history.
Last season, Cook watched a pair of gymnasts earn three spots on All-America teams as NCAA bronze medalist Katy Herbert was named to the first team on balance beam while Jennifer Exaltacion was selected to the second team in both all-around and beam. Stanford ended the year as the No. 13 team in the nation according to GymInfo, while the Cardinal was the eighth-best balance beam squad in the NCAA.
1999 was a banner year for the Card, as Cook took Stanford all the way to the NCAA Championships in Salt Lake City, Utah. The team, which was ranked as high as eighth nationally, barely missed the Super Six, finishing in a tie for 10th place. Cook produced four All-Americans in 1999: Larrisa Fontaine on vault, Sarah Harding on floor, Kristen Jensen on bars and Amy Murakami on both floor and bars.
In Cook’s first season on The Farm, he led Stanford to a victory over national power Utah en route to a Pac-10 Championship. That year also saw the first individual NCAA Champion in Stanford history when Larissa Fontaine captured the national vault title.
Previously one of the top assistant coaches in the nation, Cook came to Stanford from UCLA, where he helped build the Bruins into a national championship team. The 1996 West Region Assistant Coach of the Year, Cook helped direct the Bruins to three consecutive West Region titles, two Pac-10 Conference Championships and the 1997 NCAA title. During his three-year stint in Los Angeles, UCLA improved each year, climbing form a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Championships in 1995 to second in 1996 and the 1997 national crown. Cook’s duties with UCLA also included scouting, recruiting, strength development, training athletes and promoting gymnastics. He also served as UCLA’s Summer Camp Director.
Prior to entering the collegiate ranks, Cook was head coach of the Clovis Academy of Gymnastics in Clovis, Calif from 1980 to 1994. Beginning in 1992, he also doubled as the academy’s director. During his tenure at Clovis, he developed more than 20 Level-10 national gymnasts, three of whom were members of the USAG Junior Olympic National Team. He also produced junior and senior elites who competed in the American Classics, U.S. Classics and U.S. Championships.
Along with his work at the Clovis Academy, Cook was the Regional and National Chairman of the USGF Age Groups Committee from 1986 to 1992 and, in 1989, he was named the United States Elite Coaches Association "Rookie Elite" Coach of the Year. Cook also worked as the floor manager for the 1990 Goodwill Games and served as president of the Northern California Coaches Association from 1984 to 1986. A national and regional clinician, he was a coach and administrator for Junior Olympic Training Camps from 1986 to 1982.
A former all-around gymnast at Chico State, Cook holds a Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration and has four years of post-graduate study in P.E. Administration. He is married to Stanford women’s gymnastics assistant coach Rene Lyst Cook.