In year 1 at the helm of Arizona, new coach Eric Hansen’s first recruiting classes have been night-and-day between the women and the men. The Wildcats are off to a hot start in women’s recruiting, including landing top-5 recruit Bonnie Brandon, but they haven’t gotten a verbal yet from a male swimmer.
Over the weekend, however, Hansen landed big fish in both classes in the form of men’s swimmer Kelly Moodie and women’s recruit Leticia Lelli.
Moodie (Other great male athletes named Kelly – Chiefs Nose Tackle Kelly Gregg, Former Browns quarterback Kelly Holcombe, Two-time NHL Champion Kelly Buchberger, and of course Kelly Leak from the Bad News Bears) is one of the top (and could make a fight for the top) American middle-distance freestyler in the class, but doesn’t get enough credit because he lives and trains overseas in Japan.
He hails from the St. Mary’s School in Tokyo that produced Michigan standouts Miguel Ortiz and Ryutaro Kamiya, as well as Miguel’s younger brother Bruno who is a Michigan freshman. Moodie’s father is one of the coaches of the St. Mary’s program, and his younger sister Kana, a sophomore, appears to be a future star as well.
In 2010, Moodie’s best time of 1:51.75 in the 200 LCM free (1:36.8 in yards) would’ve placed ahead of Cal freshman Adam Hinshaw’s mark as the fastest for 16-year olds, and his 400 free time of 3:57.17 in the 400 (4:22.0 converted) would have been 4th. He’s progressed a bit off of both of those times in the meanwhile, and has become one of the elite high school swimmers in Japan. At the most recent Short Course Nationals, he placed 21st in the 200 free (1:49.8) and also earned a spot on Team Japan for the 7th Asian Age Group Championships.
He should make a great addition to what could be a very strong Arizona 800 free relay next season. If Nimrod Shapira Bar-Or chooses to return from his Olympic training in Israel for his final year of eligibility, combined with sophomore Matthew Barber, the Wildcats will be one good leg away from a top-5 squad.
CollegeSwimming.com puts him as the #16-ranked recruit in the class. The Wildcats have a HUGE senior class leaving (Chitwood, Wyman, Tipton, Thompson, Small, Pechmann, Owen, Munsch, a pair of divers) so they’ll need to use this is a springboard to close quickly before the fall signing period.
Meanwhile, as he built momentum there, he kept it rolling on the women’s side with a verbal from a big in-state recruit – #46 Leticia Lelli. Despite the success of the Arizona women’s team (and to some extent, the Arizona State women’s team) the state’s top recruits go elsewhere more often than they stay. Currently, the Wildcats only have three Arizona swimmers on their roster, two of whom are Emma Darlington and Sarah Denninghoff, who are Tucson natives.
Amongst the popular destinations for elite Arizona swimmers include Utah (2010’s #2 Traycie Swartz), Texas A&M (Kelli Benjamin and Breeja Larson), and of all places Northern Colorado (top-50 recruit in this class Jennifer LaPorte). But Lelli, the #4-ranked recruit in the state and a top-50 in the class, will be staying close to home for the Wildcats.
Lelli’s ranking might bely her true value, as she’s got really impressive versatility. That includes Summer Nationals standards in three different strokes.
Her primary discipline will probably be the backstrokes, where she’s got bests of 54.7/1:57.0 in the 100 and 200. She will join an increasingly-strong backstroke group that includes the likes of Sarah Denninghoff and Aubrey Peacock, who poth finished in the B-Final at NCAA’s last year.
But if she chose to make it her focus, she could also be an elite butterflier from the get-go, with bests of 54.1 and 2:03.6. In relay performances, she’s definitely got a spot on some NCAA relays as a freshman. Her 1:47.69 in the 200 free ranks her among the top-12 in the class, and she’s also got solid bests of 50.1 and 23.7 in the 100 and 50 freestyles, respectively.
Lelli is the youngest of an impressive swimming family, including Tamara who is a senior and School Record holder at Pitt. She also hails from the same Chaparral High School that produced Texas sophomore Ashley Brewer, so her swimming pedigree is a strong one.
Through their mother, the Lelli sisters hold dual American and Canadian citizenship, and thus far appear to be exercising it north of the border.