Easop Lee of South Korea and North Baltimore Verbally Commits to Duke

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

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NEW COMMIT: Easop Lee, a native of South Korea who currently competes for the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, has verbally committed to join the Duke Blue Devils in the fall of 2018.

easop-lee-duke

Lee’s best event in recent years has been the 200 free, in which she finished 20th at the FINA World Championships in July. Her best time in that event of 1:58.64 came from the Arena Pro Swim Series meet in Atlanta this past May.

Lee was the 2014 Summer Junior National Champion in the 200 fly with a time of 2:10.40, but that mark remains her lifetime best as her freestyles have been the most impressive as of late.

In yards, her lifetime best times are 4:40.90 in the 500 free, 1:58.75 in the 200 IM, 1:44.63 in the 200 free, 1:55.70 in the 200 back and 1:56.55 in the 200 fly. Those times in the freestyle events as well as the 200 fly would have been good enough to place Lee in A-finals at this year’s ACC championships, while her 200 IM and 200 back times come in at B-final level.

Lee’s 200 free time would also have been good enough to make the consolation final in 2017.

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Katie Ledecky and Paralympian Brad Snyder Named To Sports Illustrated 50 Fittest Athletes List

Photo Courtesy: SIPA USA

Sports Illustrated recently compiled a list of the 50 most fit men and the 50 most fit women in the world of sports right now. Swimmers Katie Ledecky and Paralympian Brad Snyder both made the list as Ledecky was in the top five for the women’s list.

Ledecky was ranked third on the list behind only track star Allyson Felix and gymnast Simone Biles. The list was assessed on factors including speed, endurance, performances in the last 12 months and other factors. Ledecky has not lost a race over 400 meters at the international level yet in her career. The 20-year-old was dealt her first loss in a major meet this past summer when she was passed by Italian Federica Pellegrini in the 200 free at World Championships.

Ledecky will be a sophomore this year at Stanford where she will look to help the team win its second straight NCAA team title.

Snyder was ranked at 31 as the only paralympian on the men’s list. He is just behind current NBA player Hassan Whiteside and ahead of gymnast Sam Mikulak. Snyder holds the world record in the 100 free for fully blind swimmers. He is 33 years of age and has swum in two Olympics, garnering five gold medals and two silvers at the London and Rio Paralympics.

Snyder is a 2006 graduate of the Naval Academy where he was captain of the swim team. Snyder was also chosen as the flagbearer for the United States at the Closing Ceremony at the 2012 Paralympics.

To see Sport Illustrated’s full women’s list, click here.

To see Sport Illustrated’s full men’s list, click here.

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2017 USA College Challenge to Feature U.S. National Team vs. Pac-12 All-Stars

Members of the USA Swimming National Team will square off against collegiate swimming stars from the Pac-12 Conference in the second edition of the USA College Challenge.

The short-course yards dual meet is slated for Oct. 21-22 at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center on the campus of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. The Saturday, Oct. 21 session will begin at 6 p.m. Pacific, followed by the Sunday, Oct. 22 session at 11 a.m.

Single-day and all-session tickets are on sale now at usaswimming.org.

“We received tremendous feedback from the athletes who participated in last year’s USA College Challenge, and we’re looking forward to an even bigger and better event next month,” said USA Swimming National Team Director Frank Busch. “Collegiate swimming is key for the continued success of USA Swimming on the international level, and this event will again showcase the best college and National Team athletes our sport has to offer.”

“The Pac-12 is excited to embrace the opportunity to partner with USA Swimming on initiatives that elevate the profile of the sport nationally and highlight the close relationship that college athletics has to Olympic success,” said Gloria Nevarez, Pac-12 Senior Associate Commissioner/Senior Woman Administrator.

“The collegiate swimming experience was key to my success with the National Team, and the USA College Challenge is a fantastic competitive platform for athletes at all levels,” said Lindsay Mintenko, former USC All-American, two-time Olympian and USA Swimming’s Managing Director, National Team. “The team format will make for an exciting early season meet for athletes and spectators.”

Pac-12 Networks will provide exclusive broadcast coverage of the event. Specific channel and broadcaster information for the Saturday, Oct. 21 session will be announced at a later date, while the Sunday, Oct. 22 session will air live nationally on Pac-12 Network as well as on Pac-12 Arizona and Pac-12 Los Angeles. Both sessions will also be available to stream live for authenticated Pac-12 Networks subscribers via the Pac-12 Now app and Pac-12.com.

In a similar format to the successful Duel in the Pool events, a running score will be kept throughout the dual meet competition combining the points earned by both women and men. With 269 points available in 31 total events, the first team to 134.5 points will be the winner.

In last year’s USA College Challenge, the USA Swimming National Team defeated the Big Ten Conference All-Stars in Indianapolis.

For individual events, each team will be permitted to enter up to four athletes. The top three athletes in each individual event will be permitted to score points for their team – 5 points for first place, 3 points for second and 1 point for third. Relay scoring is 7 points for a first-place finish and 0 points for second.

Each athlete may be entered in up to six events during the meet, including individual events and relays.

Current student-athletes at Pac-12 institutions who are members of the USA Swimming National Team will represent the Pac-12 Conference at the meet. Pac-12 alumni will represent the National Team. Rosters for the USA College Challenge will be announced in the near future.

The Pac-12 Conference produced a number of individual gold medalists for Team USA at the 2016 Olympic Games, including Maya DiRadoKatie Ledecky and Simone Manuel of Stanford; and Nathan AdrianAnthony Ervin and Ryan Murphy of Cal. In total, 17 members of the U.S. roster were products of Pac-12 programs.

Stanford swept the men’s and women’s 2017 Pac-12 Conference Championships. At the NCAA Championships, Stanford won the women’s national tile, while Cal was runner-up on the men’s side.

Press release courtesy of USA Swimming.

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Gator Swim Club’s Kirschtine Balbuena Verbally Commits to Florida Gators

Photo Courtesy: Buchholz Swim and Dive Twitter (@BuchholzSwim)

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NEW COMMIT: The University of Florida has received a verbal commitment from Kirschtine Balbuena, a senior at Buchholz High School. Balbuena also swims for Gator Swim Club. She’ll join Vanessa Pearl and Leah Braswell in the Gators’ incoming class next fall.

Balbuena is best at freestyle but is also a strong backstroker. Her top times are:

  • 200 Free 1:49.92
  • 100 Free 50.57
  • 50 Free 23.29
  • 100 Back 55.07
  • 50 Back 26.08

Last year she was the Florida 4A second place finisher in the 100 free (50.92). She also finished fourth in the 100 back. She was a part of two state titles, swimming the breaststroke leg of the team’s winning 200 medley relay before leading off the gold medal 400 free relay.

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Nebraska’s Shelby Mullendore Verbally Commits to San Jose State

Photo Courtesy: Shelby Mullendore (Twitter)

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NEW COMMIT: Shelby Mullendore will head to San Jose State University next fall after giving her verbal commitment to swim for the Spartans.

The freestyler/backstroker from Lincoln, Nebraska swims for Heartland Aquatics and is a senior at Lincoln Southwest High School.

Her best times are:

  • 200 Free 1:53.45
  • 100 Free 52.66
  • 50 Free 24.28
  • 200 Back 2:04.92
  • 100 Back 56.98
  • 50 Back 27.21

Lincoln Southwest won the Nebraska high school girls swimming state title last February. Mullendore finished second to her teammate with a 1:55.65. She added to that a third place (53.04) finish in the 100 free. She also anchored the team’s winning 200 and 400 freestyle relays en route to the state crown. The team also won the meet in Mullendore’s sophomore year. In 2016 she was second in the 100 free with a 52.66.

At San Jose State Mullendore will join a sprint free group that will still include Kimberlee Giggey (51.37) who will be a senior. Brenna Bushey (23.45) and Antionette Loya (23.56) were Mountain West 50 free C finalists last year. They’ll overlap with Mullendore for one and two years, respectively. With her lifetime best time, Mullendore would have snuck into the 100 backstroke C final, scoring points at last year’s meet. Only junior Colleen Humel (53.74) scored for the team in that event last year.

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Legendary Grove City Coach Jim Longnecker Passes Away at 84

GROVE CITY, Pa. – Legendary Grove City College coach and faculty member Jim Longnecker passed away Saturday after an extended illness at the age of 84. A Memorial Service is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sunday, September 24, in Harbison Chapel on campus. A reception will follow in Rathburn Hall.

A “player’s coach” long before the term became part of the sports vernacular, Longnecker’s knowledge, enthusiasm and positive attitude energized the programs under his guidance.

Longnecker spent 40 seasons as Grove City’s head men’s swimming and diving coach from 1957 to 1997. He guided Grove City to 40 consecutive winning seasons, including six undefeated campaigns.

With a 366-93 (.797) record at retirement, he stood as the winningest active swim coach in NCAA Division III and among the top five in all NCAA classifications.

Longnecker coached 44 NCAA All-Americans and three NCAA Division III champions in diving. Grove City won seven Penn-Ohio championships and eight Presidents’ Athletic Conference titles under Longnecker.

The American College Coaches Association honored him as “Master Coach” in 1977. Ten years later, that organization presented him with its “Distinguished Coach” award in recognition of his outstanding contributions in the field of swimming and diving.

Longnecker proposed, organized and hosted the inaugural NCAA College Division Swimming and Diving Championships in 1964 at Grove City College. Nine Wolverines earned All-America status at this inaugural meet, placing Grove City ninth in the team standings.

Longnecker directed the men’s track and field program for 40 years, accumulating a career record of 224-53-1 (.808). Grove City posted 13 undefeated seasons during his career. His teams captured seven Presidents’ Athletic Conference track titles after Grove City joined the league in 1984. Three field men achieved NCAA All-America status.

In 12 seasons as cross country coach (1960-1971), his runners posted five Western Pennsylvania Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles, won one Penn-Ohio Conference championship, produced the program’s first NCAA All-American, and qualified for the NCAA College Division Championships twice.

His teams amassed a 97-31 (.758) record, including one undefeated season. Overall, Longnecker compiled a 687-177-1 (.795) mark as a head coach at Grove City.

In 2009, the College renamed its competition pool in Longnecker’s honor. In 2007, Grove City inducted him into its Athletic Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural class of honorees.

Born September 18, 1932, Longnecker grew up in Dayton, Ohio. A 1954 graduate of Bowling Green State University, he served in the U.S. Air Force from 1954 to 1956 and received his Master of Education from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Longnecker’s coaching career began as the freshman swimming coach and varsity assistant at Miami in 1955.

Press release courtesy of Grove City College Athletics. 

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Andrei Vorontsov Heads Back to Bath after Olympic Cycles with Russia, Sweden

Photo Courtesy: University of Bath

BATH, SOMERSET, UNITED KINGDOM – After eight years of preparing Russian and Swedish swimmers for the Olympic Games, world-renowned coach Dr. Andrei Vorontsov has returned to the University of Bath to share his expertise with the student team.

He has been appointed as Assistant Coach to Head of Swimming Mark Skimming and will work with a talented group of student-athletes that includes reigning British 50m freestyle champion Anna Hopkin, who competed at the World University Games in Taipei last month.

Vorontsov is no stranger to the £30million Sports Training Village having previously been based at the University from 1999 to 2008, helping to develop such talents as World open-water silver-medallist Alan Bircher, European Champion Janna Schafer, London 2012 Olympian Stacey Bromley (nee Tadd) and current World Champion Calum Jarvis.

He returned to his native Russia as National Head Coach and oversaw their Olympic programme through to London 2012, then took up a similar role with Sweden for the Rio 2016 cycle. A tremendously successful four years saw Vorontsov help Jennie Johansson and Michelle Coleman become World Champions before Sarah Sjostrom became the first Swedish woman to win Olympic swimming gold.

jennie-johansson-world-championships-2015

Photo Courtesy: R-Sport / MIA Rossiya Segodnya

Now Vorontsov is back in the city he regards as a second home and looking forward to an exciting new challenge.

“It’s very nice to be back at the University of Bath,” he said. “There is a very warm, family atmosphere here and great surroundings with the nature around the campus and a beautiful city just down the hill.

“It’s a very special place and the facilities here are at the very top level for European swimming.

“I have had a very interesting sporting life but there is always a sacrifice to be made and mine was spending eight years away from my family as they were still living here in Trowbridge, so I’m very much enjoying being back with them.

“I would get back to England a few times a year and would meet up with Mark every time, so I stayed in touch with what was happening here.

“I remember when Mark first came to Bath. He was a very good junior coach and was the leader of our age-group programme before becoming Head Coach for the University.

“We have stayed in touch for all that time and would exchange training programmes. We have a very good working relationship – I am happy to share all of my experience and, at the same time, I will learn a lot from Mark too. It is great to be working with him again.

“I do hope it will be interesting for the young swimmers as there is a lot of potential here. The approach to swimming in this country has become a lot more professional since I first arrived here in 1999 and the depth of talent has increased very much, right across the board. I didn’t expect to see so many good student-swimmers on the programme.”

Vorontsov was part of the British Swimming National Performance Centre when he first started at the University of Bath, coaching at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games, then worked on the student programme before becoming Talent Development Coach for both the South West and East Anglia.

He also has a PhD in Biomechanics and is considered one of the sport’s leading authorities on its application in swimming having published more than 100 articles, scientific reports and books on the subject.

Skimming said: “It is great to have Andrei back in Bath, he is a fantastic coach who has produced top-level results all over the world and his knowledge of the sport is second to none.

“I learnt so much from Andrei when I first came to Bath and I look forward to learning much more from him again. I believe this partnership will enhance the programme at the University of Bath dramatically.”

The University of Bath’s student swimming set-up was the only senior programme nationally to rank in the top ten most-improved clubs at the recent British Swimming Summer Championships.

As well as training in the Olympic-sized London 2012 Legacy Pool, students on the programme also have access to the world-class Team Bath Gym and Physio & Sport Science Centre. They can also apply for sporting scholarships and lifestyle support through the Team Bath Dual Career programme.

Press release courtesy of Team Bath

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Three Swimmers Embracing Opportunities Provided by Sky Scholarship

Photo Courtesy: Sky

By David Rieder.

22-year-old Max Litchfield has spent the last two years knocking on the door of the elite in the men’s 400 IM, finishing fourth in the event at both the Rio Olympics and the 2017 World Championships. Ellen Keane, also 22 years old, has already won her first international medal, winning bronze in the SB8 100 breast at last year’s Paralympics.

Freya Anderson is six years younger than Litchfield and Keane, but as a 16-year-old semi-finalist in the 100 free at the FINA World Championships and the World Junior Champion in that event, Sky Sports saw plenty of potential in her, too.

Those three swimmers were named recipients of British-based Sky’s four-year scholarship program. According to Sky’s official website, “The program runs from 2017-2020 and offers benefits such as financial aid, both a sporting and business executive mentor, media training, personal development and work experience.”

Star British swimmers including Siobhan-Marie O’Connor, Fran Halsall and Liam Tancock had all come through the Sky program in the past, and all won medals during their careers on at least the World Championship level.

Financial support, mentoring and training for life beyond the pool—all while still having swimming as the No. 1 priority year-round? For the three swimmers that were accepted into the program, applying was a no-brainer.

“I knew Siobhan had been on it the last four years. I knew how much it helped her out. It was just a great opportunity, one I couldn’t really let pass by,” Litchfield said.

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Freya Anderson — Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

“I’m not too sure what I’m going to be when I’m older, so I’m hoping Sky mentors will help me get on the right path and boost my confidence. Hopefully I can learn new things and find something that will be a passion in the future,” Anderson said.

“Sky didn’t do this to make money or to look good,” she added. “They did this to help us.”

The biggest draw of the program for Litchfield was the opportunity to have mentors who had been through high-pressure situations in sports—like Litchfield has to deal with before his biggest races—and been through the transition out of life as a competitor.

“I know guys on the scholar team that have been athletes. They’ve kind of seen the world as an athlete, and they’ve seen the world after being an athlete,” Litchfield said. “We can draw off those experiences and use what they’ve been through to help us adapt to certain environments.”

Keane, a native of Ireland, saw potential for something more than just experience through the Sky program—she would have an opportunity to grow Paralympic swimming and Paralympic sport in general in her home country. Yes, she hopes Sky can help build up her image but not just for publicity’s sake.

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Ellen Keane — Photo Courtesy: Sky

“It’s not just about, ‘I’m Ellen Keane—I want to build the Ellen Keane brand.’” she said. “It’s more, ‘I represent a bigger community in Ireland.’ Paralympics in Ireland hasn’t grown as much as it has in Great Britain.”

From a personal perspective, having a full commitment from a program so dedicated to improving their swimming careers and their lives has been a major boost for all three swimmers.

“I think it gives you a lot of confidence definitely, and the mentoring can help build confidence,” Keane said. “Knowing the support’s there whether you swam a good race or you’ve done really bad—they’re still going to support you no matter what.”

The scholarship could provide a big boost to each of the three swimmers’ lives and livelihoods, but their targets in the pool have not changed at all: they want to respective countries internationally and winning medals.

max-litchfield

Max Litchfield — Photo Courtesy: Sky

So far, the podium target has fallen just out reach for Litchfield, as he finished less than a half-second off the podium in the 400 IM at the World Championships.

“Obviously quite frustrating to come fourth again,” Litchfield said, “but there’s more to come, and I’m really excited about what the next few years hold. Commonwealth Games is a great starting point next year and going into Worlds and then obviously into Tokyo. I definitely see myself fitting into the medals in Tokyo.”

Anderson, meanwhile, got a taste of international success when she swam for Great Britain first at the world’s biggest meet in Budapest—a meet she never expected she would qualify for at such a young age—and then at the World Junior meet in Indianapolis.

For the first time in Indy, Anderson stood on the medal podium as “God Save the Queen” played in her honor.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself to win the gold, but it’s a really fun meet, the whole experience, because of all my friends and the team spirit being really high,” she said. “It was amazing.”

As for Keane, her next shot at adding to her international résumé will come in a familiar city: the Irish capital of Dublin.

“In August 2018, European Championships are going to be in Dublin, so they’re actually going to be in my home pool,” she said. “It’s so motivating in training every day knowing in 11 months’ time, I’m going to be racing in front of the home crowd. I’m trying not to get too psyched up about it and just enjoy it because I know it’s something that’s never going to happen again.”

Read more about the Sky Scholarship program by clicking here.

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YMCA National Champion Nicole Welch Gives Verbal Commitment to Villanova

Photo Courtesy: Nicole Welch (Instagram)

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NEW COMMIT: Villanova University has received a verbal commitment from YMCA of the North Shore’s Nicole Welch. Welch will arrive with perfect timing, upon the graduation of the Wildcats’ top distance swimmers. A USA Swimming Scholastic All-American, Welch is a senior at Beverly, Massachusetts’ Beverly High School.

She wrote on Instagram, “So excited to announce my verbal commitment to Villanoca’s Swim and Dive Team!! #Gocats #novanation”

At short course YMCA Nationals in April Welch set a distance freestyle trifecta of lifetime best times. Those best times now include:

  • 1650 Free 16:50.13
  • 1000 Free 9:59.54
  • 500 Free 4:51.87
  • 200 Free 1:51.91
  • 100 Free 54.46

She went on to a successful long course YMCA Nationals as well, highlighted by a victory in the 800 free, a second place finish in the 400 free and a third place 1500 freestyle.

At last year’s Big East Championship Villanova’s Emily Mayo (16:28.54) and Caitlin Daday (16:47.00) took the top two spots in the 1650. Welch would have out touched Seton Hall’s Jillian Calocino (16:51.76) for third. Mayo and Daday will both be gone by Welch’s arrival. Mayo, Daday, and Mary Snyder went 1-2-3 in the 500 freestyle at last year’s Conference meet. Welch would have been in the thick of that race, out touching Snyder with her lifetime best. From the start of her collegiate career, Welch should sit at the top of the conference for the four time defending Big East Champions.

Welch will dive in along with Grace Wielar next fall.

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Denver’s Own Blayze Jessen Verbally Commits to the Pioneers

Photo Courtesy: Jenny Jessen

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NEW COMMIT: Blayze Jessen has verbally committed to swim for the University of Denver. Jessen should feel right at home when he moves into a dorm next fall. The JK Mullen High School senior is from Denver, Colorado, and swims for the club team University of Denver Hilltoppers.

Jessen told Swimming World,

“I’m excited to announce my verbal commitment to swim for the University of Denver. I couldn’t ask for a better school academically & DU’s swim team is on the rise and I’m grateful to be a part of it. I want to thank Coach Schrader & Coach Maguire for this opportunity and to my family and friends who have helped me on this journey. LET’S GO PIOS!!!”

A USA Swimming Scholastic All-American, Jessen is fairly versatile, excelling in breaststroke, distance free, and IM. His best times include:

  • 200 Breast 2:04.68
  • 200 IM 1:52.49
  • 400 IM 3:58.31
  • 1650 Free 15:58.72

Jessen has made great strides throughout high school. Since 2015 he’s taken 11 seconds off his 200 breaststroke time and another 11 from his 400 IM. He’s also knocked four seconds off his 200 IM in that same time.

At the 2017 Colorado 4A High School state championships Jessen finished third in the 200 IM (1:53.87). He was also fourth in the 100 breaststroke.

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