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If the Cal women have a “need” next season, it’s probably an uber-elite sprint freestyle specialist, along the lines of the recently-graduated Liv Jensen. Of course, “need” is a very relative term with the number of horses that began class in Berkeley this fall.
The Golden Bears have just received a verbal commitment from a monster of a recruit in Kristen Vredeveld from the Baylor School in Tennessee, who CollegeSwimming.com ranks as their 11th-ranked recruit in the class of 2012. In the minds of most college coaches, a swimmer with Vredeveld’s freestyle skills carries an even more extreme value due to the number of sprint races on the college schedule: she probably sits behind only Olympic gold medalists Missy Franklin and Lia Neal in terms of free-relay value in the class of 2013.
Vredeveld comes in with yards bests of 22.17 in the 50 free in 48.32 in the 100 free. Those two swims alone would have scored her double-digit points at NCAA’s last season, and faster than any returning Cal swimmer was in the 2011-2012 season.
Her swim in the 50 free, done as a junior, is also the National Age Group Record in the event for 15-16 year olds. The 100 mark ranks third all-time. Vredeveld, like many of her caliber, focused on the Olympic Trials last season, so there is a lot to look out for during her senior season – one that will now have much stress relieved after this early commitment.
She will also add value to the 800 free relay – a newfound event for Cal that they finished 2nd in at NCAA’s. She has a 1:45.3 best in the 200, which will help replace one of their two bookends (Jensen and Sara Isakovic) that graduated after last season.
Vredeveld was also the leadoff leg of the Baylor School’s National High School Record setting 200 free relay.
Missy Franklin, who has already taken an official visit to Cal, is the big prize of the class, but let’s consider just known quantities. For at least three seasons, Cal will have a medley relay with American Record holder Liz Pelton on the backstroke leg, Olympian Rachel Bootsma on the butterfly leg, and a 15-16 National Age Group Record holder as their anchor. The signing also will help give McKeever a lot more options – afterall, Pelton and Bootsma are more valuable in three individual events than they are in 5 relays.
Every top recruit in the world will have their compasses pointed toward the two-time defending champs, but at this point one has to begin to think that Cal will be very carefully selecting based on their needs. Unless Franklin or Neal is willing to sign, expect that to come in the form of breaststrokers primarily, and butterfliers secondarily.
Kristen is the younger sister of Virginia senior Nathan Vredeveld.