Gymnastics Inks Three During Early Signing Period

Nov. 17, 2010

LEXINGTON, Ky. - The University of Kentucky gymnastics team has added three players to its 2012 freshmen class, singing Kenzie Hedges (Rowlett, Texas), Alexis Gross (Pasadena, Md.) and Jessica Staples (Crystal Lake, Ill.) to National Letters of Intent, assistant coaches Chuck Dickerson and Heather Hite announced Wednesday.

Jessica Staples will be a key addition to the UK gymnastics team.

"This recruiting class is as good as this program at UK has ever had," said Dickerson, who is entering his third season at Kentucky. "All three will immediately jump in and not only compete, but compete very well. I'm so impressed with their work ethic and their commitment. All three girls come from amazing families with true character. They will without a doubt help this program reach the next level with their mixture of power and grace. They are the perfect fit for the success of our program."

Hedges comes to Kentucky by way of Rowlett, Texas, where she competed for United Elite Gymnastics under coaches Igor Carvalno and Denise Hedges. Hedges has had a successful club career at the national level, as a National Elite qualifier at the National Team Training Center and finishing strong at several quality events. At the senior elite level, Hedges was the vault champion at the Metroplex Challenge in Dallas, Texas, while also claiming titles in vault, floor, beam and all-around at the Buckeye Classic in Ohio. Hedges finished in the top five in beam, vault, floor and all-around at the ASU Elite Qualifier and was impressive at the Wild Rose International Invitational in Edmonton, Canada, in 2009, placing second on vault and third on floor.

"Kenzie Hedges is an amazing athlete with crazy power," Dickerson said. "Her skill level is off the charts. She has been competing on the Elite level for quite a few years now and will immediately step in and help this program to the next level. Her vault and floor are at the highest level and her beam is great as well. She has competed at many big-time meets and this will help her in college. She has great character and loyalty and is a perfect piece to our future success."

Kenzie Hedges is expected to contribute immediately to the Kentucky gymnastics team in the fall of 2011.

Gross will make her way to the Bluegrass State from Pasadena, Md., after competing for Bob Ouellette at Docksiders Gymnastics. Gross, who is attending high school at Archbishop Spalding, has been a Junior Olympic National Qualifier in 2007, 2008 and 2010, along with placing sixth on the uneven bars in the Junior Olympic Nationals. Gross will bring a variety of talents to the team in 2012, especially at floor exercise where she has been named a state champion.

"Alexis Gross is a very aggressive and fiery gymnast who will bring an immediate spark to the program," Dickerson said. "She competes with an amazing amount of confidence, which will bode very well for her in college. She has a go-getter, no-fear attitude and is a four-event gymnast with bars being her strong point right now. She is an all-around performer that also has great loyalty and great character; a great fit for our program."

Staples, who attends Crystal Lake High School, joins the Big Blue Nation from St. Charles Gymnastics Academy in Crystal Lake, Ill., under coach Margaret Koczwara. Staples has had a successful gymnastics career, earning a spot as an International Elite Qualifier in 2006 and also USA Championship qualifier. Staples has had success at the Junior Olympics, claiming the Junior Olympic National Beam Championship and finishing as a bronze medalist in bars in the Junior Olympic Nationals. Staples also claimed the all-around title at the regional championship.

"Jessica Staples is a great gymnast who is a past national champion and has competed on the big stage many times," Dickerson said. "Jessica can do it all. She is very graceful and has beautiful lines and a great work ethic. Although beam is probably her strongest event, she will excel on vault, floor and bars as well. We expect her to compete as an all-around performer in our program and help us to the next level. She is a great young lady with amazing character and loyalty."

Kentucky will start the 2011 season on Jan. 8 at 6:30 p.m. ET with Excite Night, hosting a tri-meet with Illinois and Northern Illinois.