GymTiders sign four top-flight athletes

Alabama Head Coach Sarah Patterson announced the signing of Mari-Christine Bayer, Dana Filetti, Dana Pierce and Larissa Stewart to national letters of intent. <br><br>"Because we're replacing five seniors, this is the culmination of a year-and-a-half of work and a lot of travel during the summer," Patterson said.

"I don't feel like it could have turned out any better. These young ladies are talented and dedicated, and they're all accomplished, elite athletes with international experience."

Dana Filetti

Dana Filetti (Chesapeake, Va./Nansemond-Suffolk Academy) was perhaps one of the most highly-recruited gymnasts this year, and for good reason. In her first year as an international elite gymnast, the U.S. Senior National Team member qualified for the World Championships where the team took home the bronze medal. The 2000 U.S. Challenge champion also placed in the top-10 at this year's Parkettes Invitational, U.S. Classic and U.S. Championships.

A senior at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, Filetti trains at Excalibur Gymnastics, the same club that produced current Tide freshman Alexis Brion. She is coached by Jim and Dena Walker.

The daughter of Dan and Jan Filetti, sister, Mara, is a freshman at Alabama in the College of Communications and Information Sciences.

Dana Pierce

Dana Pierce (Advance, Ind./Western Boone) led the 2000 Region 5 All-Star team to a silver medal in international competition in France. A member of the U.S. National Team member, she placed fourth in the all around at the 2000 U.S. Classic. She was a member of Bela Karolyi's pre-Olympic training group.

A multi-sport athlete, Pierce was undefeated in diving throughout the regular season as a junior. In the track and field, the Western Boone High School senior, competed in the long jump, winning the sectional and conference championships. The National Honor Society vice president ranks in the top-15 percent of her class and was voted this year's "Miss Congeniality."

Pierce trains with Peter Zhao at DeVeau's School of Gymnastics and is the daughter of Danny and Lisa Pierce.

Mari-Christine Bayer

While Mari-Christine Bayer (San Jose, Calif./Lynbrooke High School) started gymnastics a little later than most, at age 10, she has moved through the levels of age-group competition with ease. In her sophomore year, her first year as a Level 10 gymnast, Bayer was the state, regional and national floor exercise champion. She also placed fourth on uneven bars and fifth in the all around at the National Championships.

She now trains at the senior national elite level and has been invited to attend two training camps with Bela Karolyi. An excellent student, she holds a 3.97 GPA.

The daughter of Anton and Cynthia Bayer, she competes for Diane Amos and Chris Swircek at West Valley Gymnastics.

Larissa Stewart

Larissa Stewart (Healdton, Ok./Healdton High School) will be the first Alabama gymnast to hail from Oklahoma. The 2001 U.S. Classic and U.S. Championships qualifier has a 3.92 GPA in the classroom. Stewart is a member of the U.S. National team and took ninth in the all around at the 1999 John Hancock Classic and placed 13th at the 2000 American Classic/Challenge in Reno, Nevada.

The Healdton High School senior trained under Bea Fox and Jenny Ester-Rowland at the Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy. She is the daughter of Robert and Jeannette Stewart.

While recruiting for the 2003 freshman class is winding down, the 2002 competition season is right around the corner. The quest for the national championship will begin Jan. 11 in Gainesville, Fla. at the Super-Six Challenge. Alabama opens at home against Georgia on Jan. 18 and ends the season as host of the 2002 NCAA Championships.

Tickets to the national championship, as well as for the regular season, are on sale now through the Alabama Ticket Office (205-348-9511).

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