Gym Dogs sign Athens Christian’s Reynolds

Athens Christian senior Morgan Reynolds realized a long-held dream Wednesday afternoon when she signed a letter of intent to join Georgia’s gymnastics team.

The 5-foot-2 Reynolds, who trains at Georgia Elite Gymnastics in Athens, was one of four gymnasts expected to sign with Georgia on Wednesday, comprising new coach Danna Durante’s first class of recruits. In addition to Reynolds, Rachel Schick of California signed Wednesday and Kiera Brown of Virginia and Ashlyn Broussard of Texas were also expected to officially become Gym Dogs.

Although Athens Christian does not have a gymnastics team, the school wanted to honor Reynolds by hosting her signing event. In addition to family members and school officials, Reynolds was joined at the signing ceremony by about a dozen of her classmates (including her younger sister Lindsey), many of whom enthusiastically chanted Bulldog slogans and snapped photographs.

“Morgan has been a student here for a long time and we’re just excited about her and we look forward to following her career,” said Athens Christian headmaster Steve Cummings, who added that Reynolds is the first Athens Christian student to sign with Georgia. “We’ll be able to actually go over and see her in person at Georgia. We’re very proud of her.”

An all-around competitor who said she feels the beam is her best event, Morgan – the daughter of Sharron and Allen Morgan – said becoming a Gym Dog had long been in her career plans.

“I’ve always wanted to come to Georgia and when I started looking at other schools, I realized Georgia wasn’t the only good school, but when it came down to it, Georgia was the best for me,” she said

Reynolds gave her verbal commitment to Georgia a year ago, selecting the Gym Dogs over Alabama, Auburn, UCLA, Illinois, Washington and Nebraska, Sharron Reynolds said. Reynolds actually committed to former coach Jay Clark, but said she didn’t waver when Clark left Georgia in the spring.

“I liked the coaches, but it’s not the main reason I committed to Georgia,” she said. “The coaching change was different, but when I met Danna I thought she was great.”

“It’s exciting to have someone from right here in Athens,” Durante said in a news release. “It’s not always the case where you get a hometown athlete. We are excited to have her, and she just continues to get better and better. I didn’t know a lot about her coming in, but I watched her in the summer and have seen her a few times since, and she just continues to improve. Her gymnastics is phenomenal, but the one thing I love about Morgan is that her work ethic can’t be beat. If there’s an empty piece of equipment, she’s going to get on it. She’s incredibly passionate about gymnastics, the Gym Dogs and the University of Georgia.”

Reynolds joins former Oconee County gymnast Lindsey Cheek to make up the local Gym Dogs contingent. A two-time All-America selection on vault, Cheek also trained at Georgia Elite Gymnastics, which is owned and operated by former Georgia gymnast Kim Arnold Arenas and her husband (and former Georgia baseball player) Pete Arenas. The gym also counts former Gym Dogs Kat Ding and Courtney McCool as coaches.

“At our gym, we just try to create good athletes and bring them up in a good way, teach them good morals, responsibility, determination and discipline,” said Pete Arenas. “And I think Morgan is the epitome of that. She’s given everything she has to this sport and I think that’s what made today happen.

“She rarely missed practice for anything. There were times when her mom would call and say, ‘Pete, Morgan doesn’t want to go on the family vacation.’ Morgan would always rather be in the gym than anywhere else. She’s been a good leader for our program, and hopefully it will pave the way for the next generation.”

“I’m where I am now because Elite Gymnastics has helped me so much,” said Reynolds. “I feel like I have a family there. We all get along really well and we love each other.”

An event recognizing Reynolds’ signing will be held from 12-1 p.m. Saturday at Georgia Elite Gymnastics on Cedar Shoals Drive.

Georgia — which has won 10 national championships, the last one coming in 2009 — opens the 2013 gymnastics season at 4 p.m. on Jan. 5, hosting Oklahoma at Stegeman Coliseum.