LOGAN, Utah -
Utah State head gymnastics coach Nadalie Walsh announced the signing of three incoming gymnasts to National Letters of Intent on Wednesday. Autumn DeHarde, Mikaela Meyer and Leighton Varnadore will all join the Aggies for the 2017-18 campaign.
“I’m really pleased with this year’s incoming class because they all bring a lot to the table,” Walsh said. “They are all really highly decorated gymnasts and have competed in a lot of Junior Olympic National Championships and done very well in those competitions. Their experience will help us a lot. Gymnastics is easy for all three of these girls.”
DeHarde, a native of New Berlin, Wis., is a senior at Hamilton High School and a level-10 gymnast from LaFleur Academy of Gymnastics under coaches Greg LaFleur, Tammy Donahue and Maria Scaffidi.
DeHarde competed at the 2015 Junior Olympic Nationals, where she placed second on floor and third on beam. That same year, she placed first on floor, fourth on vault, fourth on beam and fourth in the all-around at regionals. At the level-10 state meet, DeHarde was the all-around, vault, bars, beam and floor champion.
“It’s exciting for me with Autumn because I actually used to coach at her gym before I got back into collegiate coaching,” Walsh said. “It’s exciting to recruit out of a place where I have some home ties. Autumn is a person that is so happy and always has a smile on her face. She is a powerhouse, so she will add a lot of depth to the power events and some of the skills that she’s been competing for years, we’re not going to need to teach her anything. She is going to be able to come out and do the skills she’s been doing for a really long time and they’re very high caliber skills. We’re excited to have her join us.”
Meyer, a native of Myersville, Md., is a senior at Middletown High School and a second-year level 10 gymnast from Frederick Gymnastics Club under coaches Heather Galpin, Alana Lee and Tammie Mims-Jackson.
“Mikaela is a diamond in the rough. We’re really fortunate to have gotten her to commit to our program,” Walsh said. “She was a little bit in the shadows in her gym, but going in and watching her, she is extremely athletic, very fit, very hard working and her hard work has made her very polished.”
At the 2016 Junior Olympic Nationals, Meyer placed fifth in the all-around, 11th on bars, beam and floor. At the state level, she placed fifth in the all-around, and first on both vault and bars. Meyer also shined at the level-10 regional meet, placing third on bars, fifth on vault, sixth in the all-around and eighth on floor.
“She has been getting better since the day she committed to us and that’s a huge confirmation that she was the right pick because she did not regress in the slightest and she’s very healthy and has been doing a great job,” added Walsh.
Varnadore, a native of Aiken, S.C., is a senior at South Aiken High School and a level-10 gymnast from Aiken Gymnastics under coaches Draha and Radik Krizova, and Sabina Jokulis.
“Leighton is outstanding on bars and has a ton of potential to be further developed, so she is already very strong in all of her events,” Walsh said. “By training in our facility, it’s so much better than the facility she’s grown up in, that she will be able to excel even further. That’s a big deal, at least for me, when I go into a gym and I can see that kids don’t have soft landings and they don’t have foam pits and yet they are as good as they are, then you know they are going to get even better.”
At the 2016 Junior Olympic Nationals in Fort Worth, Texas, Varnadore finished 11th in the all-around. Prior to that, she placed seventh in the all-around at the Region 8 Championships in Kissimmee, Fla., and she took fourth in the all-around at the level-10 state championships.
For more information on each of these signees, visit www.gym-style.com and click on their bio link.
“It’s been really fun to watch these girls bond over the last two years that they’ve known each other from meeting at camp, having them here this past summer, seeing them train together and having them on their official visits,” Walsh said. “They are like peas in a pod. Not only are they good athletically, but they are also good students, good kids and they will be on board with our program. They are the whole package, which is really exciting.”
Utah State will open the 2017 campaign Jan. 6 on the road against Arizona. The Aggies’ first home meet of the season will be on Jan. 13 when they welcome both North Carolina State and Bowling Green to the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
Fans can follow the Aggie gymnastics program at twitter.com/USUGymnastics, on Facebook at USU Gymnastics or on Instagram instagram.com/USUGymnastics. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletics program at twitter.com/USUAthletics or on Facebook at Utah State University Athletics.
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