University of Minnesota women’s gymnastics co-head coaches Jim and Meg Stephenson announced that five gymnasts will join the Golden Gopher program for the 2007-08 season. Kristin Furukawa, Julie Kinal, and Yuri Nagai have signed National Letters of Intent, while Gina Clementi and Kendra Elm have signed Acceptance of Admission forms. All five will begin their freshman year in the fall of 2007.
“This class will provide the biggest influx of talent in our 15 years at Minnesota,” said co-head coach Jim Stephenson. “These five student-athletes bring an array of qualifications that will be great additions to our existing talent.”
Kristin Furukawa has competed with SCATS Diamond Elite Gymnastics under coaches Trent and Jill Spaulding. Furukawa, a native of Pomona, Calif., competed at the Junior Olympic Level 9 Regional Championship in 2002, where she finished fifth on the bars and eighth in the all around. She also finished fifth on the bars at the Western National Championships in 2002. In 2003 and 2004, Furukawa was only able to compete on bars and beam due to injuries. In 2005, she competed at the Southern California State Championships at level 10, where she was the runner up on floor and the all around, and finished third on the bars. In her junior year, she was the state champion at level 10 on the bars and beam, and placed fourth in the all around. She went on to win the beam title at the 2006 J.O. Regional Championship, where she also finished fourth on bars and sixth in the all around. She qualified for the 2006 J.O. National Championship, and was the national runner up on bars. Furukawa is a senior at Diamond Ranch High School, where she will graduate in 2007. She has been on the honor roll throughout her high school career, and is a National Honor Society member. She earned the Presidents Award in 2004, and won the Foreign Language Department Award and the President’s Scholar Award in 2005. In 2006, she was included in Who’s Who Among American High School Students. She currently works as a coach for gymnasts ages 3-6 at SCATS Diamond Elite. She plans to major in graphic design a the University of Minnesota.
“Unlike most of the recruits we focus on, where communication begins in September of a recruit’s junior year, we were completely unaware of Kristin until the Junior Olympic Nationals in May following her junior year,” said Jim Stephenson. “She had an outstanding performance at nationals, it was like she had a spotlight on her. Her execution was so precise. Kristin will help carry on the Minnesota tradition of beautiful gymnastics.”
Julie Kinal, a native of Tempe, Ariz., is a three-time qualifier to the Junior Olympic Level 10 National Championship. She trains at Carter’s Gymnastics Academy in Mesa, Ariz., under coaches Jack and Erin Carter. Kinal competed at the Level 9 national meet in 2001, before moving up to Level 10, where she was a J.O. National Championship qualifier in 2002, 2003, and 2004. In 2001, she placed third in the all around at the J.O. Regional Championship, earning a trip to the 2001 J.O. Nationals. The following year, she was the 2002 all around champion at the J.O. State Championship. She went on to finish sixth in the all around at the 2002 regional meet, and qualified to compete at her first Level 10 national competition. In 2003, Kinal placed third in the all around and on the bars, and added a fourth-place finish on the vault at the J.O. Regional Championship. At the 2003 national meet, she was again third in the all around and on the bars, and placed fifth on the balance beam. She was a J.O. National Team member, and qualified to the National Elite Championship and the U.S. Challenge in 2003. In 2004, Kinal returned to the J.O. Regional Championship, where she placed third in the all around, fourth on the beam, fifth on the floor, and seventh on the vault. She qualified to the 2004 J.O. national competition, where she finished eighth on the bars. Kinal missed the 2005 season due to illness, but returned to competition in 2006. She placed second on the bars, third on the vault and in the all around, and was fourth on the floor at the 2006 California Classic. Kinal was a 2006 J.O. Regional Championship Qualifier. She is a senior at Corona Del Sol High School in Tempe, Ariz., where she has earned community service awards, and was a nominee for the Medical National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine. Kinal plans to be a pre-medicine major when she begins her college career.
“Julie is coached by a dear friend of ours, who we have known for 25 years,” explained Jim Stephenson. Co-head coach Meg Stephenson added, “Julie has a background as an elite level gymnast. She is very tall, and she has a real elegance to her gymnastics because of her height. Her skill level is exceptional, she’ll be a standout, her presence in competition is very striking.”
Yuri Nagai was a member of the Japan Junior National Team, She competed in the Australian Youth Festival in 2003, where she finished seventh in the all around. She has qualified to compete in the J.O. National Championships, but is unable to compete because she isn’t a U.S. citizen.
“We are very excited to have an international student-athlete on our team,” said Meg Stephenson. “Yuri is a fabulous athlete. She has competed for the Japanese Junior National Team, and brings that experience to our program. She will help to raise the level of Gopher gymnastics. She hasn’t been able to compete at the J.O. national meet because she’s not a U.S. citizen, but she brings a wealth of top-level experience.”
Gina Clementi is a senior at Hudson High School in Hudson, Ohio. She trains at Gym World of Ohio, where she is coached by Rom and Joan Ganim, Oscar Buitrago, Jared Nunn, Dominique Moceanu and Bob Wood. She was named to the Tops National Team in 2002. She was the Eastern National Champion on bars in 2002, and finished eighth in the all around. She also competes in gymnastics for her high school team, where she is a varsity letterwinner. She was the Western Reserve Conference MVP, and has been named to the all-district and All-Ohio teams. Clementi is involved in competitive dance, and is a member of the ski club. She is a National Honor Society member, and has a cumulative GPA of 4.17. She has been on the Highest Honor Roll every year of high school. She plans to major in sales and marketing at the University of Minnesota.
“Gina is strong on all four events,” said Jim Stephenson. “She has a very unique look to her gymnastics, and she is very strong academically. We’re very excited to have her join our program.”
Kendra Elm was the Level 9 Western National Champion on the vault, bars, and in the all around in 2005. She also won the all around at the J.O. state meet, and at the regional championship in 2005. She moved up to Level 10 in 2006, where she was the Minnesota State Champion on the bars. She qualified to compete at the J.O. Regional Championship, where she was the bars champion, and placed third in the all around. Elm was nominated for the Minnesota Junior Olympic Gymnast of the Year in 2006. She is a National Honor Society member, and has been admitted to the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Technology.
“It is always great to have local student-athletes join our program,” said Jim Stephenson. “Kendra has trained under former University of Minnesota coaches Katalin and Gabor Deli. She is a high achiever academically, and she will be a nice addition to our team.”