Arizona lost a big backstroke transfer this year in Aubrey Peacock, but it didn’t take them long to find someone to fill that hole. Former Cal Golden Bear Deborah Roth will head south to Tucson in the fall, she confirmed Saturday. Because this is an in-conference transfer, she will have to sit out the 2012-2013 season. When she returns to competition in 2014, she will have two years of eligibility left.
This decision is pending final paperwork, signoffs, and navigation of NCAA protocols.
Despite not qualifying for NCAA’s last year, this is a big signing for the Wildcats. Roth, who usually relies on a huge taper, mistimed her season and ended up short of the NCAA qualifying marks; but as a freshman in 2011, she placed 2nd at the NCAA Championships in the 100 back in 51.51. She also finished 8th that year at NCAA’s in a 1:53.80 in the 200 back (with a 1:52.96 in prelims). She currently sits 2nd on the all-time Cal list in the 200 back, and 3rd in the 100.
This is the second big transfer Arizona head coach Eric Hansen has picked up this year – it comes on the back of the addition to former LSU Tiger Amanda Kendall, another All-American who missed NCAA’s in 2012. If Roth were eligible right away, this Arizona team could be very dangerous this coming season – they’ve already got two swimmers with A-final potential in the 50 and 100 freestyles (Kendall and Margo Geer), two in the 100 back (Sarah Denninghoff and 2011 transfer Lauren Smart), and a pair of swimmers who didn’t score, but should have scored big, in the 100 breast in Ellyn Baumgardner and Chelsey Salli.
When Roth becomes eligible again, the Wildcats could be in a bit of a transition (depending on how fast their incoming recruits mature). Of those mentioned above, Smart, Kendall, Baumgardner, and Salli will all be seniors next season and done by the time Roth officially dons the block ‘A’ of the Wildcats.
With the class of backstrokers coming in to Cal next year (Liz Pelton and Rachel Bootsma), and the presence of two-time NCAA Champion Cindy Tran in her same class, it’s possible that as good as Roth is, she could have been the 4th-best backstroker on her own team (and in the country, at the same time).
This Arizona program, entering its second season under Hansen, is almost hearkening back to the way that Dave Salo built his women’s program at USC – specifically with some outstanding transfers (his were Presley Bard and Lyndsay DePaul) in the first few seasons.