American Athletic Conference (AAC) Champion Kristen Stege will transfer to the University of Tennessee after a breakout freshman season at East Carolina University.
Stege made headlines in February when she won the AAC title and broke the conference record in her first-ever attempt at the 1650 yard freestyle.
Stege’s time of 16:11.96 earned her an NCAA Championship invite as the 28th seed in the mile. She was East Carolina’s only qualifier for a meet that wound up being canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak.
“It was a really hard decision and I enjoyed my freshman year at ECU; however, I was looking to expand my academic and athletic opportunities,” Stege said of the decision to move. “I’m honored to be able to join the University of Tennessee because of the amazing swim program and team culture.”
Tennessee had 1 swimmer scheduled to race the 1650 free at last year’s NCAA Championship meet as well: junior Amanda Nunan, who was the 9th seed in 15:53.39.
Best Times & Freshman Progression:
|HS Best||Freshman Best|
Stege came to East Carolina as primarily a sprinter, but her coach Matt Jabs said that her training led them to consider the distance events as the conference championship meet came nearer.
“Her work ethic and what I had seen her do at practice all season, led me to believe she would have a decent mile, and in time an excellent one if she bought into the event,” East Carolina head coach Matt Jabs said of the swim. “It was a decision that took a good amount of time to arrive at, and I needed Kristen to be confident in what we were doing, and for her to trust me. We didn’t ‘train’ for the 1650 this year, we trained consistency and effort.”
Stege says that she’s grown to love distance events and will continue to train for them at Tennessee.
Her sister Rachel, the #18 recruit in the high school class of 2021 and a University of Georgia commit, is a top-class distance swimmer. She’s the defending Illinois High School State Champion in the 500 free and represented the U.S. in the 400 and 800 meter frees at the 2019 World Junior Swimming Championships. This will put them both in the SEC Conference, though at different schools, when Rachel arrives at Georgia in the fall of 2021.
Stege is originally from Naperville, Illinois where she attended Neuqua Valley High School.