NORMAN, Okla. – Head coach K.J. Kindler and the Oklahoma women’s gymnastics team announced the signing of four talented competitors to National Letters of Intent on Wednesday. Stefani Catour, Samantha Craus, Brenna Dowell and Alyssa "A.J." Jackson are set to join Oklahoma for the 2015 competitive season.
"We are privileged to announce this dynamic and motivated group as new additions to the Sooner gymnastics program," head coach K.J. Kindler said. "These gymnasts demonstrate talent across the board in academics, on all four events and through their technical execution of the sport. They also possess our program's core values, including loyalty, honor, passion and commitment."
Catour, Craus, Dowell and Jackson bring an impressive array of national and international experience to the table for Oklahoma. Among the group’s accomplishments include membership on the U.S. Senior National Team, a spot on the Junior Olympic national team, multiple Junior Olympic national titles and a variety of dominant performances at the state and regional levels.
"We are excited for the smooth transition these gymnasts provide as we are set to lose one of our largest and strongest senior classes," Kindler added. "It is a challenge to continue to refuel your team with excellence and competitiveness, but we know that Brenna, A.J., Stefani and Sam are eager to get out there and represent Oklahoma at the highest level."
STEFANI CATOUR // Chandler, Ariz. // 5-3
"Stefani is truly an all-around athlete and has the potential to contribute for the Sooners across the board. I know she will give everything she has every day and will continue to become an even more remarkable athlete and person." - Head Coach K.J. Kindler
A former junior international elite and current level 10 gymnast, Catour trains at Desert Light Gymnastics under Lisa Spini, Neela Nelson, Bruce McGehee, Bob Peterson and Chris George. The Chandler, Ariz., native won regional titles in 2013 on all-around and floor, qualifying her to the J.O. National Championships.
"Stefani has shown an 'all-in' attitude since we first started her recruitment and made it known that we were her top choice," Kindler said. "She has experience both in the Junior Olympic and elite arenas of competition. She had a breakout season last year winning Region 1 Championships, which we believe is just a glimpse of what she is capable of in the future."
Catour has earned six Arizona state titles since 2010, including titles on vault, bars, floor and in the all-around at the 2012 state championships. She has also qualified to multiple national competitions, including VISA Championships, the U.S. Covergirl Classic and the Nastia Liukin Supergirl Cup. Catour was the 2009 U.S. Challenge champion and was also a member of the U.S. National training team that year.
"Stef and I have had the opportunity to really get to know each other well and I am so impressed with her," Kindler added. "I know she will give everything she has every day and will continue to become an even more remarkable athlete and person. Stef will have an in-and-out of gym influence on the Sooners.”
Catour Career Highlights:
- Former junior international elite/current level 10
- Junior Olympic Nationals qualifier - 2013
- Arizona State Championships - 2012 (1st vault, bars, floor and all-around)
- VISA Championships qualifier- 2010
- U.S. Challenge - 2009 (1st all-around)
- U.S. National Training Team member - 2009
SAMANTHA CRAUS // Grapevine, Texas // 5-4
"Sam has outstanding swing on bars and a passion that glows from her. I am in awe of her motivation... She has so many intangible qualities that will positively affect her teammates. " - Head Coach K.J. Kindler
Craus has spent four years at level 10, training under Tina Martin at U.S. Gold Gymnastics and Cheer. A native of Grapevine, Texas, Craus is a talented gymnast that has battled several injuries throughout her club career. She most recently qualified for the Junior Olympic National Invitational Tournament in 2011 but fell to a dual ankle injury prior to the competition.
"Samantha has a unique story of perseverance," Kindler said. "As a sophomore, she was showing tremendous potential and was on track for an amazing season when she suffered a knee injury. Since that time, Sam has showed an incredible commitment to her recovery."
Craus notched a third-place finish in the all-around at the 2011 Texas State Championships and followed up with a ninth-place all-around showing in regional competition. An outstanding student, Craus is a National Honor Society member and National Society of High School Scholars inductee. She is an academic honor roll honoree at Carroll High School and is set to finish high school as a recognized distinguished graduate. Craus elected to walk on at Oklahoma over offers from Illinois, New Hampshire, TWU and West Virginia.
"We had the opportunity to work with Sam at our camp prior to the injury and she had outstanding swing on bars and a passion that glowed from her," Kindler said. "You can see that she has a deep love for gymnastics and a fire that has propelled her through the difficulty of rehab, setbacks and frustration. I am in awe of her motivation and I look forward to watching her continue to progress. She has so many intangible qualities that will positively affect her teammates."
Craus Career Highlights:
- Level 10 gymnast
- Junior Olympic National Invitational Tournament qualifier - 2011
- National Honor Society member
- National Society of High School Scholars member
- Recognized distinguished graduate at Carroll H.S.
BRENNA DOWELL // Odessa, Mo. // 5-3
"Brenna highlights unbelievable gymnastics skills across the board. She has already reached incredible heights at the international level... We know that her impact will be huge for our team." - Head Coach K.J. Kindler
Dowell joins the Sooners as one of the most decorated gymnasts ever signed to the Oklahoma program. Hailing from Odessa, Mo., Dowell is a current U.S. Senior National Team member who has competed as a senior elite at multiple national and international competitions. She trains at Great American Gymnastics Express (GAGE) under Al Fong and Armine Barutyan. Dowell finished third in the all-around and on bars and fifth on floor at the 2013 P&G Championships, earning her a spot on the U.S. team for the 2013 World Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp, Belgium.
"Brenna will join Oklahoma as one of three U.S. World Championship representatives and Olympic Trials competitors to ever grace a Sooner leotard," Kindler said. "She has already reached incredible heights at the international level and wants to have that kind of experience at the NCAA level as well. We know that her impact will be huge for our team.
Dowell competed at the U.S. Olympic Trials, the Secret U.S. Classic, the VISA Championships, the Covergirl Classic and J.O. Nationals, earning 11 top-ten finishes across all events.
On the international scene, Dowell has competed as a member of U.S. teams that have won team titles at the 2013 City of Jesolo Trophy in Italy and the 2010 Pan American Championships in Guadalajara, Mexico. As an individual she has won all-around titles at the 2012 Mexican Open in Acapulco, Mexico and has also earned top-three finishes at the 2013 City of Jesolo Trophy (third-all-around, third-bars) and the 2012 City of Jesolo Trophy (second-bars).
"Brenna highlights unbelievable gymnastics skills across the board," Kindler said. "When I say unbelievable, I honestly mean beyond comprehension. She performs at a level so high that very few athletes in the world perform the difficulty she exhibits in her routines. We know that Brenna’s work ethic is amongst the best and we are so pumped to welcome her to the family."
Dowell Career Highlights:
- Elite level gymnast
- U.S. Senior National Team member
- World Gymnastics Championships qualifier - 2013
- P&G Championships - 2013 (3rd all-around and bars, 5th, floor)
- U.S., Germany, Romania Tri-Meet - 2013 (5th all-around)
- City of Jesolo Trophy - 2013 (3rd all-around and bars, 1st team)
- U.S. Olympic Trials - 2012 (8th bars, 9th all-around)
- Mexican Open - 2012 (1st all-around)
- City of Jesolo Trophy - 2012 (2nd bars, 7th all-around, 8th vault)
- Pan American Championships - 2010 (1st team)
- Junior Olympic Nationals - 2009 (1st vault, 2nd floor and all-around)
ALYSSA "A.J." JACKSON // Belton, Mo. // 5-3
"A.J. has amazing power and incredible control on vault and floor, but that is just the tip of the iceberg for her. She sets big goals for herself and has the confidence and commitment to bring them to fruition." - Head Coach K.J. Kindler
A level 10 gymnast from Belton, Mo., Jackson trains at Eagles Gymnastics under the tutelage of Kim Fuchs. A powerful and accomplished vaulter, Jackson is a three-time Junior Olympic national champion on the event (2011, 2012 and 2013). She brings an impressive skill set to the gym as an all-around gymnast as well, holding a total of 13 Missouri state titles and five individual regional titles.
"A.J. is similar to a jet plane...she flies!" Kindler remarked. "She has amazing power and incredible control on vault and floor, but that is just the tip of the iceberg for her. She has been a J.O. national team member in the all-around, which testifies to her strength on all four events."
Jackson was named to the Junior Olympic national team in 2012 after earning a national title on vault and placing third on bars, floor and in the all-around at the 2012 J.O. National Championships. She owns a total of seven top-three finishes at J.O. Nationals and has also competed at the Nastia Liukin Supergirl Cup. In addition to OU, Jackson was recruited by Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio State and Utah.
"In person, A.J. has a quiet and calm demeanor, but when the lights go on and she steps out onto the floor she is a fierce competitor," Kindler said. "From our conversations, I know that A.J. sets big goals for herself and has the kind of confidence and commitment to bring them to fruition. The Sooners will benefit from her high aspirations and calm confidence."
Jackson Career Highlights:
- Level 10 gymnast
- Junior Olympic Nationals - 2013 (1st vault, 3rd bars)
- Junior Olympic National Team member
- Junior Olympic Nationals - 2012 (1st vault, 3rd bars, floor, all-around)
- Junior Olympic Nationals - 2011 (1st vault, 5th bars)
- Nastia Liukin Supergirl Cup - 2011 (6th all-around)
- Five Region 4 titles
- 13 Missouri state titles