Gym'Backs sign two for 2009

FAYETTEVILLE — Mariah Howdeshell and Jaime Pisani signed National Letters of Intent joining the University of Arkansas gymnastics team for the 2008-09 season.

"We are thrilled that Jaime and Mariah will be joining the program," added co-head coach Rene Cook. "They are both extremely talented and will make an immediate impact in our program. Jaime finished third in the all-around at the junior Olympic nationals this past year. Mariah is a former international elite and has not only great athletic skill but also extremely artistic. Both Jaime and Mariah are strong in the all-around. Both girls committed last spring, they instantly fell in love with our campus and they felt a strong fit with the program."

Howdeshell comes to Arkansas by way of Metroplex Gymnasts, one of the most successful clubs in the nation.

The 5-5 all-arounder is in the midst of her senior season with Metroplex but has posted some good numbers in prior seasons. Her vault, a Yurchenko full, scored a 9.85 at Level 10 Regionals in 2006. In fact, all of her personal bests came at that meet.

Howdeshell’s personal best on bars is a 9.70, a 9.525 on beam, a 9.60 on the floor and a 38.00 as an all-arounder.

Howdeshell is the youngest of two children to Gary and Jackie Howdeshell of Sachse, Texas. Older sister, Stevie is in the military.

"Mariah is very good on all four events, and competes exceptionally well," said co-head coach Mark Cook. "She will be expected to vie for an all-around spot within her first year, and will strengthen the team’s performance on bars and beam."

Pisani is a North Star Gymnastics Club standout and the third Gym’Back to hail from that program (Dana McQuillin and Samantha Cortez). A native of Ringwood, N.J., Pisani will complete her senior season with North Stars this fall.

The 5-2 all-arounder finished third at regionals and nationals and was a Junior Olympic team member as a junior. Her career bests include a 9.75 on vault, a 9.65 on bars, a 9.65 on floor and a 38.25 as an all-arounder.

In addition to gymnastics, Pisani is a member of the Lakeland Regional High School honor roll.

"Jaime just completed a very successful season placing third at the 2007 Junior Olympic National Championships as an all-arounder," said Mark Cook. "She will have an impact on all four events, but should excel on bars and vault. Jaime is also expected to bring strong leadership skills to the table."

The Gym’Backs continue fall workouts until the start of the 2008 season with a road meet at Michigan Jan. 11. The Gym’Backs open at home with back-to-back meets hosting LSU Jan. 18 and Penn State Jan. 25. For more information and a complete schedule, please log on to LADYBACKS.COM.