March 13, 2013
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -
Alabama senior gymnast Ashley Priess has been named one of six finalists for the 2013 AAI Award, which honors the nation's top senior gymnast.
Just the second fifth-year senior in Alabama's storied history, Priess returned from surgery on both ankles that sidelined her for the entire 2011 season to clinch the Crimson Tide's second consecutive NCAA Championship in 2012, posting a 9.95 on the balance beam.
"Ashley could have finished out her career on that perfect Cinderella moment last season, but she chose to return this season to be a part of this team and to make this journey one more time with her teammates," UA head coach Sarah Patterson said. "Through all she's experienced and overcome, she's turned into an amazing leader, one who has used the challenges she's been through to benefit her teammates."
An eight-time All-American, Priess was voted co-captain of the 2010 and 2012 squad and earned the Tide's Lewis Each Courage Award in 2012. Through the ninth meet of this season, she has won 53 individual event titles, including SEC and NCAA Regional All-Around Championships. In 2013 alone, she has already matched her career-best scores on the balance beam and uneven bars with a 9.95 and 9.925, respectively. She has also been named the SEC Gymnast of the Week this season and led the Tide to the highest road score in the nation this year.
"I am so proud of Ashley and all she's accomplished during a truly remarkable career," Patterson said. "From leading us to an SEC Championship as a freshman, to coming back after double ankle surgery sidelined her as a junior and clinching the NCAA Championship on the balance beam last season, she has always risen to the occasion."
Priess has already completed her undergraduate degree in Spanish, becoming the first UA gymnast to finish her degree in less than four years while still competing. A three-time Scholastic All-American and a four-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll, she is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Sports Management and is slated to graduate this May.
"She is an extraordinary athlete, scholar and, most importantly, person and I am thrilled by her continued success," Patterson said.
The AAI Award is selected by a vote NCAA head coaches. The six finalists will be recognized and the winner announced at the NCAA Championship banquet in Los Angeles on Apr. 18. The other 2013 finalists are Marissa King, Florida; Sharaya Musser, Penn State; Brie Olson, Oklahoma; Vanessa Zamarripa, UCLA; and Katie Zurales, Michigan.