Alabama Adds Commonwealth Games Medalist Saunders for January

Dennis Pursley is joining his in-state rivals from Auburn in adding a huge international recruit to the Alabama lineup for this season, in the midst of all of the recruits pouring in for next season. Pursley’s latest addition is Emma Saunders from Great Britain, where Purlsey just resigned as the High Performance Director to take the Alabama job.

Saunders comes in with big-time credentials, as she competed for England at the 2010 Commonwealth Games just past her 16th birthday in 2010. and won a silver medal in the 400 free relay and a bronze in the 800 free relay. She also won a trio of medals at the 2011 World Junior Championships in Lima, including individual bronze in the 100 back with a long course time of 1:02.35 that stands as her best result. In that raced, she beat out top American recruits Kylie Stewart and Olivia Smoliga.

Saunders is really just an all-around phenomenal swimmer who excels in most races. In the freestyles, she’s been 26.33/55.85/1:59.96, which convert to around 23.2/49.5/1:46.0 in yards. All of those times line up to put her immediately on the Tide’s free relays for this year’s SEC Championships. Her addition alone, for example, would have knocked 8 seconds off of last year’s 800 free relay.

In other events, Saunders has a 1:02.20 in the 100 fly in long course, and a 2:16 in the 200 IM.

When Pursley inherited the program at his alma mater, he inherited a project. In just his short time on the ground there, though, he’s already shown that he has no intention of keeping it that way. This signing follows the verbal commitment by top Australian junior Bonnie Macdonald last night, though Macdonald won’t come in until next fall.

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In just a few years I’m betting that Alabama will have a roster full of foreign swimmers with just a few US swimmers who choose to walk on. They will begin to look like SMU, USC and many other teams who choose to go international to get ready scorers. I think the NCAA should look at limiting the percentage of scholarships that are awarded to foreigners at Schools that receive State and Federal funding. If these foreigners choose to pay full price to attend and swim at these institutions then fine. Coaches will do anything to move up in the rankings and that is ultimately one of the goals but there is plenty of US talent to choose from. These… Read more »


Don’t most college/university rankings (princeton review, us news and world report, etc) actually count international students as a positive in universities? Looks like Bama swimming is increasing it’s university’s value.

“Plenty of US talent to choose from”? Really, show me the two US females at the level of these 2 recruits that Bama is turning away.


I’m just saying limit the percentage on scholarship, not turn them away.


Interesting points, even if they are completely bogus. The international athlete is one of the best elements of the NCAA, especially for swimming. Their involvement creates a world-wide buzz and keeps our college sport relative by creating one of the best competitions in the world. Having the ability to race some the worlds most elite swimmers in your event (both domestic and foreign) makes our sport standout as a rival meet to that of the Olympic Games. In terms of limiting scholarships that coaches give to international athletes is ridiculous. Most coaches (probably 90% of them) try for the best domestic kid first. Problem is, once you go through the first 10-15 there’s not much left that any coach would… Read more »


Not sure what points are “bogus” in that they are simply opinions. It looks as if I have hit on a Hot Button topic. I too swam with internationals and to many points they enhanced and added to the positive culture of the team and University. Some did not assimilate well and a few ended up leaving because of international swimming obligations and one was deemed ineledgible due to accepting monies for their performances abroad. In our US Universities, more specifically public colleges/universities, US taxpayer dollars are used for education, facilities, salaries etc. for the university as a whole. By giving a foreign athlete a scholarship you are in a sense, subsidizing their education with US taxpayer dollars while the… Read more »


I agree 100% with financially supporting American swimmers before their foreign competitors. College educations today cost a small fortune. Many of these European students can go to college for free in their home countries. Our kids can’t. It’s not fair that non tax-paying International swimmers are given full rides while their American teammates receive partial scholarships and must subsidize using other means. Let’s take care of our American kids first. They’ve worked hard. They deserve it!

Rick Allred

Has Marlin Brutkieciez (Mobile, Alabama) announced a verbal commitment?

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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