Michigan Signs Three to National Letters of Intent

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The University of Michigan women's gymnastics program received National Letters of Intent from three student-athletes in the early signing period (Nov. 12-19): Natalie Beilstein(Butler, Pa./Knoch), Brittnee Martinez(Colorado Springs, Colo./Doherty) and Katie Zurales(Wheaton, Ill./Wheaton Warrenville South).

The Michigan women's gymnastics program will welcome three of the top six all-around finishers from nationals in 2008, with Zurales taking third, Martinez fifth and Beilstein sixth.

"We're thrilled to bring in this special class," said head coach Bev Plocki. "We feel that from top to bottom it is one of our strongest recruiting classes in a while. We believe they will come in and make an immediate impact. All three are wonderful people and I think they will bring great chemistry to our program."

Beilstein is a level-10 gymnast competing for Butler Gymnastics who has qualified for nationals in each of the last four seasons. Beilstein was the national floor exercise champion in 2006 and 2007 while also taking runner-up honors on vault, third-place honors on floor and finishing sixth in the all-around in 2008. She is a Region 7 All-Star and will be competing in Costa Rica later in the month. Beilstein's club coach, Steve Heasley, was the coach for Plocki's high school team when she competed as a youngster. Plocki also grew up in Butler, Pa., and attended Butler High School.

"Natalie is raw power," said Plocki. "She is a dynamic and explosive athlete. Her vaulting and tumbling skills are out of this world and she has more difficulty in those two events than anyone we have had in our program. We also think she has a lot of room to mature as an athlete and a competitor and the sky's the limit for her."

Martinez is a level-10 gymnast competing for Colorado Aerials Gymnastics who finished fifth in the all-around at nationals in 2008 -- one spot ahead of future teammate Natalie Beilstein. Martinez also took fourth on bars and 11th on vault at nationals and was a member of the 2008 Junior National Team. Martinez also competed for her high school, winning the all-around competition, vault, floor and bars crowns at the state meet. Martinez was coached at Colorado Aerial Gymnastics by Kathy Vigil, Jason Baits and Jaycie Phelps, who was a member of the "Magnificent 7" that won gymnastics gold at the 1996 Summer Olympics.

"Brittnee is a well-rounded athlete who can contribute in the all-around immediately," said Plocki. "She just finished competing for her high school team which we think is valuable for her because gymnasts don't often get a chance to enjoy some of the rah-rah nature of high school athletics."

Zurales is a level-10 gymnast competing for the Phenom Gymnastics Club who took third in the all-around at nationals in 2008, finishing ahead of future teammates Natalie Beilstein and Brittnee Martinez. She was a Region 5 All-Star for three years (2006-08) and a two-time member of the Junior National Team (2007-08). Zurales also took fourth on vault, seventh on bars and 10th on floor at nationals in 2008 while finishing third in the all-around at the 2007 nationals. She is coached by Marco Bravo at Phenom Gymnastics.

"Katie is an extremely consistent athlete and well balanced in the all-around," said Plocki. "She is outstanding all-around and I would be hard pressed to name her best event. She has a good combination of grace, elegance and a high level of difficulty."

Natalie Beilstein Brittnee Martinez Katie Zurales

Michigan hosts its annual Maize and Blue Intrasquad on Saturday, December 12, at 7:30 p.m. at Crisler Arena.

Contact: Richard Retyi (734) 763-4423


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