TUSCALOOSA, Ala. The University of Alabama Gymnastics team signed three student-athletes to national letters of intent during the early signing period.
Sarah Patterson, in her 30th season coaching the Crimson Tide, announced that Julie Cotter, Ashley Priess and Geralen Stack-Eaton will be a part of the 2009 freshman class.
“I’m glad this day is finally here,” Patterson said. “All three of these ladies committed to Alabama so early in the process that it seemed like signing day would never get here. We are excited to have three young ladies of this caliber join our program. All three of them have tremendous physical gifts, but just as importantly they all are dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in all that they do.”
In addition to committing to Alabama early, the Tide is the only school each of the three visited during the recruiting process
All three athletes have competed as part of the United States National Team with Priess and Stack-Eaton currently pursuing a spot on the U.S. Team for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In fact, both Priess and Stack-Eaton signed their letters of intent the day they left for a national team training camp.
The sister of Tide junior Courtney Priess, Ashley Priess is no stranger to the Alabama tradition.
“Obviously it’s very exciting. It’s something I’ve always dreamed about, being a college gymnast, so it’s really exciting that it’s finally a reality,” the younger Priess said. “My sister and I are really, really close, family is so important to us. I really wanted to go to school where my sister did, but I tried really hard to not let that be a factor in choosing a school because I really wanted to choose a school that was right for me. It ended up that Alabama was just the best possible place for me, so having my sister there made it all the better.”
A member of the 2006 United States World Championship, she finished 10th in the all-around in Denmark, helping the U.S. to the silver medal. She competed with current Alabama sophomore Kassi Price on the 2006 U.S. World Cup team in Lyon, France where she won the balance beam and uneven bars. At the 2006 World Cup event in Ghent, Belgium Priess earned a silver and bronze medal in the balance beam and floor exercise respectively. Priess also earned a silver medal on balance beam and was seventh in the all-around at the 2005 Massilia Gym Cup in Marseilles, France.
“Alabama combines everything I was looking for,” Priess said. “The coaches are amazing and I really felt like I was a part of the team and family right away. The way the girls welcomed me from my first visit on was wonderful and I just love the college town atmosphere, the way everything revolves around the campus. I just fell in love with it.”
Priess who is coached by Mary Lee Tracy at Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy, is a three-time U.S. Classic all-around champion, taking top honors in 2004, 2005 and 2006. At the 2006 U.S. Classic she was second in the floor exercise and third in the uneven bars and balance beam.
The daughter of Mel and Linda Priess, she attends Lakota West High School.
Both Stack-Eaton and Cotter come from Parkettes, the same gym that produced NCAA Champion Kim Kelly, and are coached by Bill and Donna Strauss.
Stack-Eaton, a native of Horsham, Penn., was sixth in the all-around at the 2007 USA National Championships. As a member of the U.S. National Team she competed in the USA/Belgium dual meet in 2003, helping the United States to the win and taking the bronze medal in the all-around and floor exercise and silver medal in the balance beam. She also helped lead the U.S. to gold against Japan in 2002.
“I was beginning to think that this day would never get here,” Stack-Eaton said. “I really liked the family atmosphere at Alabama, everyone was very welcoming and it felt like home on my visit. I’m excited about starting the next part of my gymnastics career and starting college and finding what I want to go into.”
The daughter of Susan Stack and the late Jon Eaton, she will graduate from Bridgeway Academy in the spring.
Cotter, a native of Orefield, Penn., is a member of the Level 10 national team and earned silver in the all-around and vault and bronze on the uneven bars and floor exercise at the 2006 Level 10 National Championships.
“It's unreal; it's really cool; I'm so glad it's finally here because it was about this time last year when I was first looking at the school,'' Cotter said. ''I just fell in love with the place on my visit.'
At the 2005 Cancun Classic she earned silver medals in all-around and in the uneven bars plus a gold medal on vault and bronze medals on balance beam and floor exercise.
The daughter of Kevin and Karen Cotter, she attends Northwestern Lehigh High School, the same high school as Alabama legend Penney Hauschild. Cotter hopes to enjoy the same level of success that Hauschild, a four-time NCAA Champion, enjoyed with the Crimson Tide.