Cal women’s head coach Teri McKeever is on every high school swimmer’s shortlist. The only limitation to her recruiting right now is managing scholarships. She brought in the most prodigious high school recruit in history in Missy Franklin, along with three other top-20 recruits. Last year, they did even better with the addition of two high school swimmers who have already competed internationally in Rachel Bootsma and Liz Pelton (and that was just a start). McKeever, though, might have tipped this year’s class ahead of last with her latest addition: a verbal commitment from New Zealand’s Sophia Batchelor.
Batchelor’s commitment was first reported by collegeswimming.com and then confirmed by independent sources. Consider this a “soft verbal” for now; she wouldn’t be able to sign until the spring signing period opens anyway, and hasn’t yet actually visited Cal – a trip she has planned in the next few weeks.
She’s only 18 but is already the New Zealand National Record holder in the 100 fly in long course after a 58.71 at last year’s New Zealand National Championships. In 2011, she actually became the first in her country’s history to break a minute.
Batchelor was heartbreakingly left home from the Olympics; she missed the FINA automatic qualifying time by .01 seconds in the 100 fly, but Swimming New Zealand chose to leave her home, even though she was in line to be called up for one of the provisional “B” standard slots. That converts to around a 51-mid in yards, which would put her into an NCAA A-final, at the very least, already.
Batchelor is a backstroker/butterflier combo, though one would imagine she’ll focus on the butterflies in the short term, given the glut of backstrokers Cal has. In the 200 in long course she’s been 2:12.3 in the 200 back and 2:11.9 in the 200 fly.
This will set up Cal in the butterfly and backstroke events for years to come, between the overlap of Missy Franklin’s two years there, the end of Cindy Tran’s college career, and the rest of Rachel Bootsma and Liz Pelton’s tenure, and Batchelor’s classmates Celina Li and Egyptian Farida Osman, two of the best 2013’ers in the country. They still don’t have a true long-term solution to their breaststroke group, it would seem, that has emerged yet. There’s not a lot of great breaststrokers in this year’s junior high school class, but expect someone like Heidi Poppe (1:00.38) to get called early and often this coming fall by McKeever.