The 2007 recruiting class already was one of the largest in University of Utah gymnastics program history. Now it is one of the best.
On Tuesday, Utah announced the signing of German national team member Daria Bijak, who placed eighth at the 2005 World Championships.
Marsden learned Bijak was interested in coming to the U.S. through senior Gritt Hofmann, who also is German. Marsden started corresponding with Bijak for several months.
"It was never a certainty," Marsden said of Bijak's signing. "She reminds me a lot of Nicolle Ford. She has beautiful movement, is very athletic and loves the spotlight."
Bijak also won the all-around, vault and floor titles at the 2005 German Championships.
Earlier, Utah signed Chelsea Coleman, Jamie Deetscreek, Annie DiLuzio, Stephanie Neff and Sarah Shire. Bijak's signing makes the class the largest in school history, and one of the most promising in the country for the 2007 season.
DiLuzio and Shire both have considerable international experience and Deetscreek was one of the most consistent gymnasts at the Junior Olympics level.
"This was a huge class in terms of numbers and talent," Marsden said. "UCLA, Stanford, Georgia and Alabama all had great signings. It's a tossup as to who had the best."
Marsden also cautioned that a great recruiting class doesn't always translate into a great team. Chemistry, injuries and longevity all play a role in a sport notoriously difficult on athletes' bodies.
Those thoughts were echoed by Dwight Normile, the editor of International Gymnast magazine.
"That first year in college can be a rough one," he said. "Obviously they're good gymnasts now, but it's hard to predict how they'll be because it's so far out."
Utah opens its season Jan. 7 at UCLA, but probably won't be 100 percent.
Sophomore Ashley Postell has been limited in her training after tearing the medial collateral ligament in her elbow. She just started working on the uneven bars, and probably will sit out that event in the opener.
Kristen Riffanacht is recovering from a high ankle sprain she suffered two weeks ago.
Junior Rachel Tidd's future is still uncertain. She hasn't been able to perform any gymnastics since the season ended because of lower back pain. She hopes to recover enough to at least perform on the uneven bars, but that is an almost unrealistic possibility at this point.
"She is feeling a little bit better, but she's still far away from doing any gymnastics," Marsden said. "But I'm not going to force her into any decision. We're going to give her enough time as she needs to come to whatever decision she needs to make."
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