FAYETTEVILLE – Coming off its second trip to the NCAA Super Six in four years, Arkansas’ gymnastics program is re-stocking with the addition of three Level 10 Junior Olympic national qualifiers who combined for 10 top 11 national finishes and six regional titles over the last three years.
The three incoming Razorbacks for the 2013-14 season are Samantha Nelson of Peabody, Mass., Paris Ryder of Dix Hills, N.Y., and Amanda Wellick of Wheaton, Ill. Nelson competes for Ace Gymnastics, Ryder for Gold Medal Gymnastics and Wellick for Legacy Elite Gymnastics. Nelson qualified for the JO National Championship in 2010, 2011 and 2012 while Ryder qualified in 2011 and 2012. Wellick qualified from 2006-12.
"This 2013 class is a very good group of athletes and individuals who will make an instant impact on the continued success of our program," co-head coach Mark Cook says.
Nelson finished second in the nation on floor in 2011 while Ryder was 11th. Wellick was second on floor, and third on vault in 2012; sixth on vault and eighth on floor in 2011; and fourth on bars, fifth on vault and floor, and sixth in the all-around in 2010.
In addition, Nelson has four regional titles over the last two years – beam and floor in 2012, and floor and in the all-around in Region 6. Also competing in Region 6, Ryder won the beam title, and was second on floor, vault and in the all-around in 2011. Ryder was also second on beam in 2012. Wellick won the Region 5 bars title in 2011. She was second on bars and in the all-around in 2012, and second on beam and in the all-around in 2012. Wellick was named to the Region 5 All-Star Team in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
"We are excited about this 2013 class," co-head coach Rene Lyst says. "As a whole, this class is probably the most explosive and powerful class we have signed to date. All three are going to be a great asset to our program and I am looking forward to getting them on campus next summer."
In the 2012 Massachusetts state meet, Nelson won beam, and was third in the all-around and on floor. During the regular season, she won the all-around and swept all four event titles at the Starlight Invitational. Nelson won floor at the Crystal Cup and vault at the CGA Coaches Spectacular.
"Samantha is a very powerful athlete and does some big gymnastics," Cook says. "Vaulting and floor will show her power while beam will showcase her leaps and jumps. She will also have a chance to make our bars lineup as she continues making progress in that event as well."
In the 2011 state meet, she won floor, was second on beam, third in the all-around, and fourth on bars and vault. At the Starlight meet, Nelson, who attends St. Mary’s High in Lynn, Mass., won floor and was second in the all-around. In the 2010 state meet, she won floor, was second in the all-around, on vault and on bars, and third on beam.
"Samantha caught my eye the first time I saw her compete," Lyst says. "She has great lines, is quick and very powerful, yet she is very small. Her strengths will be vault, beam and floor, but we certainly expect she will be viable for the bar lineup as well. She has not even come close to reaching her potential and I’m looking forward to being a part of that process."
In the 2012 New York state championship, Ryder was eighth on bars and 10th on vault. Ryder won the all-around, vault, beam and floor in the Manhattan Classic. In the Little Bigger Invitational, she was second in the all-around and on vault, and third on bars and beam.
"Paris is an extremely hard worker and will provide consistent routines that are strong and polished on all four events," Cook says. "Her competitive spirit will add to the mental strength of our team. She is awesome!"
"The thing I like most about Paris is her passion for the sport and her drive to reach her potential," Lyst says. "We look for Paris to make an impact in the all-around next season. Over the course of the last two years, she has continually upgraded her routines and continues to gain competitive experience."
In the 2011 state meet, Ryder, who attends Half Hollow Hills High West, placed third on floor and fourth in the all-around. She won the all-around and beam in the Tim Rand Invitational.
In the 2012 Illinois state championship meet, Wellick won floor and bars titles, and was second in the all-around and third on vault. She won floor, and was second in the AA and on beam at the LGA Lucky Invitational. Wellick won the all-around and swept all four event titles at the St. Louis Classic. She won beam at the Big Dream Classic, and was second in the all-around, on vault, and bars, and third on floor. She won the AA, vault and beam at the Gliders Invitational – Fun in the Sun meet, and won vault, bars, floor and the AA at the Legacy Elite Winter Classic.
"Amanda Wellick is the most accomplished of the group on paper," Lyst says. "She has been competing at a high level and we look for her to make an impact on all four events. She is a consistent and mature competitor. She will definitely make an immediate impact in the program and we can’t wait to get her here."
In 2011, Wellick was 18th in the nation in the all-around, in addition to her top 10 finishes on vault and floor. In the state meet, she won the all-around and all four event championships. Wellick also won bars and floor at the Bravo Classic, and the all-around and bars at the CGA Coaches Spectacular.
"Amanda is also a very powerful athlete," Cook says. "She is balanced on all four events and will most likely vie for an all-around spot as a freshman. She is very strong on vault and also has some cool moves on bars."
In 2010, Wellick, who attends Warrenville South High, won state titles in the all-around and on bars.