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U. signs top German gymnast

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 14 2005 12:00 a.m. MST

University of Utah gymnastics coach Greg Marsden wrapped up his 2007 recruiting class — the largest in Ute history — with one of the most gifted gymnasts in the world when Daria Bijak of Germany signed an NCAA national letter of intent to compete for the Utes.

Bijak recently placed eighth at the 2005 World Championships in Melbourne, Australia. She has accepted an invitation to compete in the Visa American Cup on March 4 in Philadelphia.

It's been a phenomenal year for the German National Team member, who was previously crowned the all-around, vault and floor champion at the 2005 German Championships. In 2003, she placed 20th in the all-around at the world championships and finished third on vault and bars and fourth in the all-around at the German national championships.

"Daria is an amazing athlete to watch perform," said Marsden. "She reminds me a lot of (current Ute) Nicolle Ford in that she has beautiful movement, is very athletic and loves the spotlight. Daria will definitely become a crowd favorite, just as former German National Team member Gritt Hofmann has been during her career here."

(Hofmann was granted an extra year of NCAA eligibility and is on the 2006 Utah team.)

From Cologne, Bijak attends Georg Buechner Gymnasium High School and trains at Turnteam Toyota Cologne under coaches Peter Bruggeman and Shanna Poijakova.

Others who will join the Utes in 2007 include Chelsea Coleman (Mesa, Ariz.), Jamie Deetscreek (Hatboro, Pa.), Annie DiLuzio (Folsom, Calif.), Stephanie Neff (Apache Junction, Ariz.) and Sarah Shire (Sweet Springs, Mo.).

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