TUCSON, Ariz. ?- Arizona gymnastics head coach Bill Ryden today announced that he has received National Letters of Intent from three high school student-athletes. Brittney Morgan of Charlottesville, Va., Miranda Russell of Oshkosh, Wisc., and Jamie Custer of La Grange Park, Ill., each inked their names to join the program for the 2006-07 academic year.
“This is one of the top classes in the country for a number of reasons,” Ryden said. “First, you can compare it favorably to a lot of top programs and their classes around the country. Second, we signed a very high quality class of athletes. And third, considering the availability of talent, we did a tremendous job. We’re very happy with the ones we were able to get”
“We wanted to add 12 legitimate routines to our team,” Ryden added. “We got three all-around athletes with 40 start values, which is not all that common. They can come in and make an immediate impact, and certainly add depth among other things. We feel very good about them. They are all very good students which is in line with our tradition of quality student-athletes.”
Morgan, a 5-2 senior at Charlottesville High School, is a 13-year member of Hills Gymnastics, where she has trained for Kelli Hill, Jen Bundy and Cynthia Smaha. A four-time Junior Olympic National qualifier, Morgan has finished as the national runner-up in the all-around each of the last two years. She is also a two-time national beam champion, and in 2003, she qualified for the Junior International Elite team. Additionally, Morgan is a two-time regional all-around champion and a four-time state champion.
“Brittany is a very accomplished athlete,” Ryden said. “She will be able to walk in right away and make her mark on this program. People will know her right away.”
Morgan, who would like to pursue an academic career in early education and environmental science, is the daughter of Cory Morgan and Wendy Fisher. She has twice been named to the school’s honor roll and is involved in the Latin Club, Outdoor Club and Young Liberals Club at her school.
Russell, a 5-foot-4 senior at Oshkosh West High School, is a 15-year member of the Oshkosh gymnastics center where she currently trains under Phyllis and Dale Hardt. The three-time (2001-2003) JO National Team member placed 10th in the all-around and ninth on the bars in 2002. She also qualified for the JO Western National Championships in 1999 and 2000.
“Miranda is going to be a surprise to a lot of people,” Ryden said. “She’s been a bit under the radar due to some injuries, but that happens a lot. She is very capable and can compete at a very high level of gymnastics.”
Russell, who wishes to study political science and Spanish at Arizona, is the daughter of Dave and Debbie Russell. Her father, Dave, was a two-time national champion on the parallel bars at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Her mother, Debbie, was a member of the 1980 AIAW national championship team at UW-Oshkosh, and earned All-America honors on the balance beam in 1982. Russell’s sister, Rehana, is currently a member of the University of Minnesota gymnastics team.
Custer, a 5-foot-5 senior at Waubonsie Valley High School, is a six-year member of Arena Gymnastics Club where she trains for Dan and Beth Miller. The club is currently the defending three-time Level 10 state champions. Custer is also a four-time JO National Team qualifier. She has placed fourth, fifth and seventh in the all-around at Nationals the past three years. Additionally, Custer swept the Illinois state titles in 2003 by winning on vault, bars, beam, floor and all-around. This past year, she finished second in the all-around.
“Jamie is a high quality athlete. She doesn’t stand out on any one event, but once you get to Nationals, she’s right there in the Top 10. She doesn’t do things with a lot of flash or bang, but she is very consistent.”
Custer, who may pursue an education in business, is the daughter of Mike and Kelly Custer. She boasts a 4.0 grade point average and has been named to the honor roll every semester during her high school career.