Women's Gymnastics Inks Three
NORMAN —Head coach K.J. Kindler and the Oklahoma women’s gymnastics program announced the signing of a trio of gymnasts on Friday. Vanessa Deniz and Brooke Weins will join the Sooners in the fall of 2019. Ragan Smith will join the Sooners in the fall of 2020 after deferring a year to pursue a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team.
Smith brings an impressive array of international experience, while Deniz and Weins both have success at all levels of competition, including incredible performances at the national, regional and state levels.
Vanessa Deniz / Millstone Township, N.J. / Arena Gymnastics / Photos
Deniz, a native of Millstone Township, N.J., trains at Arena Gymnastics under the direction of Ann and Valdi Kolasa. Deniz is the daughter of Mariela and Richard Deniz and has two siblings, Destiny and Brian. Currently, Deniz attends Allentown High School.
“Vanessa stole my heart from the beginning,” head coach K.J. Kindler said. “She is very humble but at the same time has a lion’s temperament. She has big goals and dreams racing through her veins and she is determined to achieve them. She has true passion and “the love of the game”. She is coachable, craves feedback and wants to try new things and build her skill resume.”
Deniz, a current level 10 gymnast, competed at the JO National Championships in 2018 where she placed in the top four on vault, bars and floor, while also finishing ninth in the all-around. She has excelled at regional competition, placing first on bars, beam, floor and the all-around. She was also a New Jersey state champion on beam in 2018 and picked up three top-three finishes on vaults (2nd), floor (3rd) and the all-around (2nd).
“Vanessa is a beautiful athlete,” Kindler said. “She is strong and at the same time elegant. Her execution is impeccable. But what struck me immediately about Vanessa was her deep gratitude and her inspired attitude. She has a team of family and coaches that are her biggest cheerleaders and she has made them very proud. I believe she will not only be a strong competitor, but she will be a leader in every aspect.”
|THE DENIZ FILE|
Ragan Smith / Lewisville, Texas / Texas Dreams Gymnastics / Photos
A member of the gold-medal-winning 2018 U.S. Women’s World Championships team and an elite level gymnast, Smith brings a wealth of national and international experience to Oklahoma. A native of Lewisville, Texas, Smith trains at Texas Dreams Gymnastics under coaches Kim Zmeskal-Burdette and Chris Burdette.
“We are excited for the entire Smith family to join the team,” Kindler said. “Ragan has had an incredible career with remarkable accolades and we are privileged to be the next stop on her journey. The entire Sooner fan base will be supporting her as she continues to train for the opportunity to represent the USA at the Olympic Games in 2020.”
At the 2018 Worlds Team Selection Camp, Smith placed fifth in the all-around, third on beam and fourth on vault and floor. In 2017, she was the U.S. all-around, balance beam and floor exercise champion and a bronze medalist on uneven bars. At the 2016 Olympic Team Trials, Smith placed second on beam, fifth in the all-around and sixth on floor.
Smith, who has been on the U.S. National Team for four years, was an alternate for the 2016 Olympics. She has appeared in several high-profile events in her career, including P&G Championships, Secret U.S. Classic, the Jesolo Trophy, Pacific Rim Championships and the American Cup among others.
“Ragan is lightening in a bottle,” Kindler said. “When she competes, the room stops. Her floor performances are loaded with charisma and are some of my all-time favorite to watch! She is on the national stage each and every year and that experience will be invaluable when she steps on the floor in an Oklahoma leotard. Ragan has exceptional character. She is strong willed, resilient and determined. She is a perfect fit for our program.”
Smith is the daughter of Michael and Kerry Smith and has two brothers, Jackson and Hudson.
|THE SMITH FILE|
Brooke Weins / Thornton, Colo. / 5280 Gymnastics / Photos
Weins, a native of Thornton, Colorado, trains at 5280 Gymnastics under the direction of Katia and Alex Shchennikova and Mikah Hammond. Weins is the daughter of Chad and Sherri Weins and has three siblings, Kayla, Brandon and Christopher. She currently attends Pomona High School and intends to major in education or nursing.
“We are so excited for Brooke to join the Sooner family,” Kindler said. “Brooke is a strong all-arounder and able to contribute on all four events right out of the gate. What I love about Brooke is her aggressive competitive demeanor. She performs with confidence and swagger. She has shown mental toughness and the ability to overcome obstacles.”
Weins, a level 10 gymnast, picked up three top-three finishes at the 2018 Colorado State Championships, earning a second-place finish in the all-around and second-place finishes on vault and beam. At the regional level, she finished in the top 10 in the all-around with a sixth-place finish. She was the 2018 Jeffco Gymnastics MVP and earned the Colorado Sports Woman of the Year Super Achievement for Gymnastics in 2016.
“In our initial conversations Brooke struck me as a team player,” Kindler said. “As I got to know her better, this was reinforced. Brooke has several former teammates from her club, 5280, who are members of the OU men’s gymnastics program. This sparked her interest in OU. She absolutely impressed our coaching staff and we believe her talent and potential will take her far in the collegiate arena.”
|THE WEINS FILE|