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Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News/File

Utah gymnastics signs four to National Letter of Intent

By Liz Abel, Utah Athletics  |  Posted Nov 12th, 2014 @ 12:02pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah gymnastics team has signed four gymnasts to National Letters of Intent, including U.S. Senior National Team member MyKayla Skinner (Gilbert, Ariz.) and Junior Olympic qualifiers Shannon McNatt (Houston, Texas), MaKenna Merrell (Pleasant Grove, Utah) and Erika Muhaw (Montville , N.J.).

"We recruited knowing we'd be losing four great gymnasts in this current senior class," said Ute co-head coach Greg Marsden. "Our 2015-16 class will come with a good skill set and all four have the potential to get even better throughout their college careers."

Skinner is a two-year member of the U.S. Senior National Team and a member of the gold medalist USA team at the 2014 World Championships in Nanning, China, where she individually placed third on vault and fourth on floor. At the 2014 Pan American Championships in Toronto, she won four gold medals: team, all-around, vault and floor. Skinner, whose first name is pronounced mi-kay-la, also placed first on vault and floor, and was fourth in the all-around at the 2014 City of Jesolo Trophy in Italy. The United States won the team gold medal at all three meets.

Skinner placed second on vault and floor, and was fifth in the all-around at the 2014 P&G National Gymnastics Championships. Her other top finishes as a member of the Senior National Team included silver medals on vault at the 2013 and 2014 Secret U.S. Classics in Chicago and a bronze medal on vault at the 2013 P&G Championships.

Skinner also earned a number of top-10 finishes as a Junior National Team member from 2011-12. Among her notable achievements while competing for the J.O. National Team was placing second on vault at the 2011 Visa USAG Championships and third on vault at the 2012 Visa Championships. She won the all-around at the 2011 American Classic.

"MyKayla is one of the top gymnasts in the world and will immediately be considered a top contender on every event at the NCAA Championships," said Marsden. "She has been very well coached and while she will enter college gymnastics at the highest level, we believe she has the potential to get even better as a result of her passion for the sport. She loves to flip and twist."

Skinner trains at Desert Lights in Chandler, Ariz., for coaches Lisa Spini, John Spini, Neela Nelson, Bob Peterson and Bruce McGehee. She is a senior at Higley High School. She is the daughter of Kym and Cris Skinner.

McNatt, a former International Elite, was the 2014 J.O. Level 10 national floor co-champion and placed sixth in the all-around. At the 2013 J.O. Nationals, she tied for third on beam and finished eighth in the all-around. She placed third all-around at both the 2013 and 2014 Region 3 Championships and has eight top-three regional finishes overall.

As a Junior Elite, McNatt qualified for the 2012 Visa USAG Championships and the Covergirl Classic. She was also the 2014 Texas state vault champion and finished second in the all-around and on floor (tie).

"Shannon's gymnastics is quite beautiful. She is a great dancer and has a very fluid movement pattern. Her style will be most apparent on floor and beam, however she is capable of contributing on all four events."

She trains at Stars Gymnastics Training Center for coaches Dan and Ashly Baker. The senior at Texas Connections Academy is a member of National Honor Society. Her parents are Karen Lovett (McNatt) and Tom McNatt.

Merrell (pronounced mare-ull) has qualified for the J.O. National Championships three years, most recently placing fourth on bars and beam and seventh in the all-around (Senior A Division) in 2014.

A three-time J.O. regional champion, Merrell has won two regional floor titles and one bar championship. She has taken second in the all-around at regionals for the last two years.

"I'm really excited about MaKenna for two reasons," said Marsden. "First, she's a local talent who will help keep us competitive at the highest level, and two, I believe she will absolutely blossom in the college environment and become a top all-arounder."

Merrell trains at All-American Gymnastics for coaches Jimmy Pratt and Dawn Johnson. She is a senior at Pleasant Grove High School, where she has made the honor roll every term and was a Student of the Month.

She is the daughter of Jodi and Paul Merrell. Her sister Mickell was a BYU gymnast from 2008-12.

Muhaw (pronounced moo-haw) has competed at the last three Junior Olympic National Championships, earning six top-10 finishes. She is a two-time J.O. regional floor champion and won the Region 7 Junior C all-around title in 2013. She has also won three silver medals in regional competition: Junior C bars and beam in 2013 and the Senior A all-around in 2014.

Her international experience includes participating for the Region 7 All-Star team that competed in France (2013) and England (2014). She placed third in the all-around at the 2014 meet.

"Erika is a talented gymnast who loves to compete and never takes no for an answer. She has demonstrated a toughness that will be beneficial to our team's mentality. She proved that with her gritty performance at the 2014 J.O. Championships after missing most of the season as a result of knee surgery."

Muhaw trains at North Stars Gymnastics Academy in Boonton, N.J. for coaches Tony Gehman, Ashley Miller and Anne Meed. The senior at Montville Township High School has won several awards for art and pottery, including first and second-place prizes for her pottery at the New Jersey State Fair.

She is the daughter of Susan and James Muhaw.

The newest Utes have signed with the only school to qualify for 39 consecutive national championships, including all 33 NCAA Championships. The Utes have won 10 national championships, placed in the top-three 22 times and qualified into the Super Six 18 times.

Utah holds every gymnastics attendance record, averaging over 14,000 fans a home meet for the past six years and over 11,000 a meet in the last two decades. The Utes have won 30 national gymnastics attendance titles and four all-sports NCAA women's attendance titles (2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014).

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