Nov. 13, 2013
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The Alabama gymnastics team has added five gymnasts to its lineup in the early signing period, including two that are slated to join the Crimson Tide for the spring semester head coach Sarah Patterson announced on Wednesday.
"This is another step in the relationship we have built with these women," Patterson said. "We're so excited to have them join the Crimson Tide and our gymnastics family."
Mackenzie Brannan, Nickie Guerrero, and Kiana Winston will join the Tide next season while Keely McNeer and Aja Sims are slated to join this year's team in December as Alabama continues on "The Road to Birmingham."
"These ladies are all supremely talented and will be exciting additions to our team," Patterson said. "I'm very pleased that Aja and Keely will be joining us as we go through this season on the road to the SEC and NCAA Championship, both of which will be held in Birmingham this spring. It's a very exciting time for our program."
Aja Sims comes to the Tide from Orlando, Fla. and is coached by Kelly Pitzen and Brandy Johnson at Brandy Johnson's Global Gymnastics. A member of the USA Junior Olympic team in 2011-12, she has an uneven bars skill, "The Sims," named for her. She is the 2012 JO National all-around, uneven bars and balance beam champion.
The daughter of Daisy and Clinton Sims, she attends William R. Boone High School where she carries a 4.7 cumulative grade point average and was accepted into the prestigious Law Magnet Program.
"I chose the University of Alabama because of the loving environment and care that is in the program," Sims said. "The athletic facilities, learning atmosphere and gymnastics coaches are not only the best, but are also so welcoming. They make Alabama feel just like home."
Keely McNeer is a native of Brandon, Miss., and is coached by Mario and Cheryl Gonzalez at Courthouse Gymnastics Co. A 2010-11 member of the USA National Team, she finished 15th in the all-around at the 2010 Visa Championships.
The daughter of Cyndy and Mike McNeer, she is set to graduate from the University of Nebraska Independent Study High School where she carries a 4.17 cumulative grade point average. A member of the National Society of High School Scholars, she was also honored with the National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists Award of Excellence.
"I chose the University of Alabama because of the amazing atmosphere, the high academic standards, and the chance to be a part of and form lifelong bonds with the wonderful gymnastics family," McNeer said. "I believe that this school will provide me with the resources to achieve greatness in all aspects of my life and make significant contributions to the world."
A native of Austin, Texas, Mackenzie Brannan is coached by Barry Hyder at Capital Gymnastics. A four-time USA Championships competitor, she took fourth on the uneven bars at the 2010 championships. She also won the 2013 J.O. floor exercise championship as well as the all-around at the 2011 and 2012 Nadia Comaneci International Invitational.
The daughter of Debi and Ron Brannan, she studies at Texas Connections Academy and is a member of the National Honor Society.
"When I made my visit to the University of Alabama, I immediately felt at home," Brannan said. "I love the coaching staff and the team atmosphere. I like the values that the coaches embody and reinforce in the girls on the team. I like how rich in tradition the University is, and the campus is beautiful. I see myself succeeding at Bama in both the classroom and in the gym."
Nickie Guerrero hails from McKinney, Texas and is coached by Tatiana Schgelkova and Alex Atamas at Zenith Gymnastics. A three-time USA Championships qualifier, she finished fourth in the all-around in 2013. She also qualified for the 2013 USA J.O. National Team.
The daughter of Barbara Rayner and Rick Guerrero, she is a senior at Lovejoy High School.
"The beautiful campus, all the history and tradition that comes with the Alabama, the welcoming and high-spirited coaches, the school academically were all what I was looking for," Guerrero said. "And the environment throughout Tuscaloosa made me feel so welcomed."
Fort Worth, Texas, native Kiana Winston trains under Chris Burdette and Kim Zmeskal Burdette at Texas Dreams Gymnastics. A three-time USA Championships qualifier, she was a member of the USA Junior National Team.
The daughter of Yolanda and Kevin Winston, she attends North Crowley High School where she is a member of the National Honor Society and the student council.
"Alabama feels like home, and I love the environment and people there," Winston said. "I love it in general ... it's the best place on earth."