Gregg Troy and the Florida Gators received a huge verbal committment yesterday when CollegeSwimming.com’s #13-ranked Natalie Hinds made a verbal committment to swim for the Gators in the fall of 2012.
Hinds hails from tiny Midland, Texas in the Western part of the state where football is king. She’s been the focal point of a somewhat bewildering oasis of swimming in the area. Midland has always defied the odds athletically, though, given that despite it’s small population (about 100,000) it has been a ridiculous hotbed of athletic talent. Former NBA stars Spudd Webb and Mookie Blaylock both hail from Midland, as do NFL star Cedric Benson, no fewer than 10 major league baseball players, and Judy Rankin, the all-time money winner on the LPGA tour. It’s also notably the home of the Bush family (yes, that Bush family).
There couldn’t have been a better fit for this Florida program’s needs. After Sarah Bateman graduates next year, they will be left without an elite relay anchor, which is a role that Hinds should slot into very quickly. She has bests of 22.83/49.82 in the 50 and 100 freestyles, and the latter of which she probably would have been on Florida’s NCAA 400 free relay last year. She and Jamie Bohunicky, who will be a senior next year, will make up the foundation of the Florida relays.
Florida has some phenomenal 200 backstrokers, including Elizabeth Beisel. What they badly need, however, is a sprint backstroker, and Hinds will fit that spot as well. She could very easily take over the backstroke legs of the 200 medley as a freshman with a best of 54.44 in the 100. In that event, she was the Texas State runner-up (behind Auburn commit Jillian Vitarius).
Florida will also be needing a sprint butterflier very badly. Bateman is currently the best they have, and she, again, will be graduating after this season. The swimmer out of is the defending Texas state champion in this event in 52.96, which behind Bateman is the best time on the Florida roster.
In an instant, Hinds’ committment has met the three biggest needs for the Gators. Realistically, she can’t fill all of those roles (she can only swim one leg of the medley relays, for example), but she gives the Gators some great options in the relays.
Expect more of the same from this Troy recruiting class. The Gators have an incredible array of individual talents, but their relays are suffering. They finished an average of 11th last year, with a 5th-place 800 free relay as the only A-finalist.