Mary Pelton Transferring From UCLA to Virginia After 1 Season

College sophomore-to-be Mary Pelton will transfer to the University of Virginia in the fall after 1 season with the UCLA Bruins.

Pelton came out of high school as primarily a sprint freestyler (50-200) and 200 IMer, but in her one year in Westwood she swam a lifetime best in just one event: the 500 yard free.

In her best events, she was well off the pace of what she swam in high school while training at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club.

Pelton’s best events (best time in high school/best time in college):

  • 50 free: 22.93/23.58
  • 100 free: 50.35/50.99
  • 200 free: 1:46.59/1:49.78
  • 100 back: 55.60/no swim
  • 200 IM: 1:58.87/2:02.05

All of those season-best times at UCLA were done at mid-season meets, and she was well short of even those marks at the Pac-12 Championships and missed scoring in any individual events.

If she can get back to form, Pelton will join a Virginia short-free group that picked up big points at NCAAs despite not having any scorers in the 50 or 100 freestyles. The Virginia 200 free relay was 6th at NCAAs, the 400 free relay was 10th, and the 800 free relay was 4th. The Cavaliers graduated just one swim from across those three free relays.

Pelton overlapped in the Pac-12 for one year with sister Liz Pelton, who is an American Record holder and swam her senior season last year at Cal.

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6 years ago

The subtitle “Mary Pelton will try to regain her form from HS…” implies that she is making the move primarily or solely due to poor performance in the pool. And many of the commenters are arguing back and forth about whether she should swim what she wants or what the team wants her to swim. It is just as likely that the switch has little to do with swimming. Most swimmers who go to college who love the academics and their friends can tolerate a bad freshman year in the pool. In fact, there are many swimmers who do not do their best times freshman year, but rarely do they transfer. Realistically, she is not ever going to be a… Read more »

6 years ago

Didn’t Missy Franklin swim the 200 and 500 freestyles at NCAAs to help her team?
Didn’t Pelton research the coach’s 30 year history with the UCLA program?
A good coach can convert a willing swimmer to swim well in different events, or are we not giving our swimmers versatility at the age group level? Is the swimmer willing to make such a commitment, or is she inflexible?
Isn’t one of the primary goals of college athletics to assist athletes to make a successful transition to the real world? Aren’t we asked in our jobs to assume many roles and to take on challenges we may not have faced before?
I think there are more implications here.

6 years ago

it seems that ucla consistently recruits good swimmers and every year people expect the team to have a breakout season, but it never happens. poor coaching??

Patti Poole
6 years ago

Hats off to Mary for making the tough choice to move on. Sometimes things just don’t work out for whatever reason. College should be a fun experience in the water, classroom, and socially. Life is way to short to be unhappy. Best of luck to you at UVA!

6 years ago

Hard to swim PBs when your college team practices less than your club team practiced . . . Hope the transfer works out.

College swimmer
6 years ago

I can understand the whole “team” concept. And sure swimming some off events at dual meets and maybe even mid-season I understand. But here, you have a high caliber swimmer. Her 200 free and 200 IM are amazing times coming out of high school, why waste that talent on a 500 free? It just doesn’t add up. I’m all for the team, but I think she could have been better utilized for the TEAM if the coaches would have put her in events that she was good at.

6 years ago

Let the recruit beware. He / she should know what the program is all about BEFORE he makes the commitment. Don’t be fooled by “the coaches were great, and the team seemed like a family.” Of course the recruit is going to be guided carefully through the landmines that might exist in a given program. If she gets stuck swimming the events that are not compatible with her background, who’s to blame? The same if the training and coaching are inferior.
A program is not going to invest a ton of bucks in a kid who cannot sacrifice a little for the college / university competitive format. Last time I looked, the dual meet and championship formats are cumulative,… Read more »

College swimmer 2
Reply to  beachair
6 years ago

This may be true, but isn’t really relevant to this situation. The girl didn’t leave because she swam a great 500 free and didn’t want to keep swimming it, she swam poorly all year and dropped at one meet in an off event. Sounds like the training just didn’t work for her.

Reply to  beachair
6 years ago

She is what, 19/20 years old? I think she is old enough to make decisions for her own well being. Who cares if she only wants to swim certain events? Would you rather her swim events she doesnt want to swim and be miserable?

You cannot compare college swimming to job prospects, thats ridiculous.

Reply to  DravenOP
6 years ago

The one similarity I do see between college swimming and the workplace is that they too often share a common truth:

Employees join a company but leave a boss.
Recruits join a team but leave a coach.

kim n
6 years ago

Had a daughter swim for the present UVa coaching staff . . a class act that cares about the person before the “what can you do for my coaching career” mentality. Another child swimming D1 with a staff that’s all about themselves. The worst part is that they have taken the love for the sport away. Good luck Mary Pelton you made a great choice

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner 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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