Missouri State Wraps up Signing Period with 12 NLI’s

SPRINGFIELD – Missouri State head swimming and diving coach Dave Collins announced that 12 student-athletes have signed their National Letters of Intent to continue their education and compete for Missouri State starting in the 2016-17 season, closing out the Early Signing Period on Wednesday, Nov. 18.

“First of all I want to thank our staff, especially coach (Chelsea) Dirks-Ham, for her tireless efforts in helping to identify and communicate with this wonderful group of student-athletes,” Collins said. “Her efforts have resulted in a great group of future bears that will help us to continue to elevate our program.”

The Missouri State men’s team had five signees that are expected to join the squad next fall.

“I am very excited about this year’s men’s recruiting class,” Collins said. “We have been able to identify and sign what I feel is some of the best talent in the Midwest. On top of that, these five individuals are very high character guys with an importance on not just improving in the pool, but on getting a great education and helping us to continue a tradition of excellence in the classroom. Our staff is really looking forward to working with these young men during their college careers and watching them represent the Bears at a very high level.

Thomas Heye | Back/IM | Little Rock, Arkansas | Central HS | Arkansas Dolphins Swim Team

Ranked third among all Arkansas swimmers in the class of 2016 according to CollegeSwimming.com, Thomas Heye brings a wealth of success at the state level to the Missouri State men’s team. A three-time all-district and all-state selection for Central High School, Heye won an individual state championship in the 50-yard freestyle and earned a runner-up finish in the 100 free as a junior. Heye has also won a state championship in the 400 free relay as a sophomore and had multiple top-five finishes at the state meet in a variety of events. Heye – younger brother of current Missouri State swimmer Christopher Heye – has also been a Junior National qualifier in the 100 backstroke for two consecutive years.

Head Coach Dave Collins’s Take

“Thomas is a great fit for our program. He has a reputation as a leader and a hard worker, two traits we take tremendous pride in as a team. His versatility as a swimmer will make him very valuable to us and I look forward to working with him.”

Samuel Senn | Free |Springfield, Missouri | Kickapoo HS | Springfield Aquatics

Springfield native Samuel Senn joins the Bears as the second-ranked swimmer out of Missouri according to CollegeSwimming.com. Senn – a two-time Scholastic All-American – has won three state individual championships, with two coming in the 100 free. A member of all-state relay teams as both a junior and senior, the local product also owns Kickapoo High School records in the 50 free (20.48), 100 free (45.08) and 200 free (1:39.46). Senn was named the Southwest Missouri Preps Boys Swimmer of the Year as a junior and as a senior earned Ozone Athlete of the Week honors. A four-year lettermen, Senn helped lead the Chiefs to Southwest Missouri Conference runner-up finishes the last two seasons and has qualified for the Summer Junior National Championships.

Head Coach Dave Collins’s Take

“I am thrilled to have Samuel staying local and joining our program. He is coming off another great performance at the Missouri High School state meet where he solidified himself as the top sprint freestyler in Missouri. At (6-foot-6) he has an athletic frame that will transition very well to Division I swimming.

Jacob Schultz | Back/IM | Webb City, Missouri | Webb City HS | Jasper County Killer Whales

Ranked the fourth-rated swimmer by CollegeSwimming.com coming out of the class of 2016 in Missouri, Jacob Schultz comes off an impressive performance at the Missouri High School State Championships. The Webb City native won the 100-yard butterfly (49.54) and finished runner-up in the 200-yard individual medley (1:50.67), while also competing in the 50 free (21.36) at the state meet. A three-time state qualifier, Schultz previously earned a personal-best fifth in the 100-yard backstroke as a junior and an eighth-place finish in the same event as a sophomore. Schultz also has experience at the club level, racing in the Speedo Champions Series and at the NCSA Junior Nationals

Head Coach Dave Collins’s Take

“Adding Jacob toward the end of the signing period was a huge addition for us. He is coming off some great swims at the Missouri high school state meet, including an individual state title in the 100 fly. Jacob has the opportunity to come in and immediately make a positive impact in some events that we have graduated some key points.”

Antonio Thomas | Distance Free | Fayetteville, Arkansas | Haas Hall Academy | AquaHawgs

The No.1 ranked swimmer in the state of Arkansas according to CollegeSwimming.com, Antonio Thomas carries plenty of accolades along with him when he begins his MSU career in 2016. Thomas has previously qualified for the US Open in the Long Course 800-meter freestyle and the Speedo Junior National Championships. The Fayetteville product had the fastest times in the 500 free, 1000 free and 1650 free in the sectional Champions Series event in Jenks, Oklahoma, last March, earning the highest point total among all swimmers at the meet. He again took high point honors this summer at the Champions Series event in Columbia. Along with his club success for the AquaHawgs, Thomas has previously been named a USA Scholastic All-American.

Head Coach Dave Collins’s Take

“Antonio is a great pick up for us as he was heavily recruited. He is without a doubt one of the top high school distance swimmers in our region. His impact will be felt immediately as he will join former Arkansas high school swimmer, Minki Kang, on our roster giving us a very good one-two punch in the distance events.”

Samuel Hunt | Diving | Jr. | Titusville, Florida | Indian River State College | Cocoa Beach

Samuel Hunt is set to join the Bears for the 2016-17 season as a junior, after completing his second year of eligibility diving for Indian River State College. Hunt has had experience competing among other NCAA Division I schools during his time with the Pioneers, earning runner-up finishes in 1- and 3-meter diving against Texas A&M and a second- and third-place showing versus Florida Atlantic already this season. He’s also previously dove in meets against Georgia Tech and Florida International. The Titusville, Florida, native finished runner-up at the regional championships as a senior in high school and placed sixth at state as well that season.

Diving Coach Jim Huelskamp’s Take

“I am extremely excited that Sam will be joining us next year. He comes from a very strong diving program at Indian River (State College) and will have the opportunity to make an immediate impact for us. He comes in with a Division I list of dives that will transition well into the MAC Championships.”

The MSU women’s team had seven student-athletes submit their NLI’s to join the Bears during the 2016-17 season.

“This group of very talented ladies come to us from all over the world,” Collins said. “We have been able to fill some much needed depth in certain areas and the potential for top end points in other areas. With a large group of seniors on this year’s roster, we had to have a very good signing class and this group has exceeded our expectations. This group is excited to get to campus and help us continue our winning tradition in the MVC.”

Sarah Allegri | Back/Free | Prairie Village, Kansas | Shawnee Mission East HS | Kansas City Swim Academy

Rated as the fourth-ranked swimmer out of Kansas from the class of 2016, Sarah Allegri joins MSU in 2016-17 with success at both the club and high school level. Allegri most recently competed at the NCSA Junior National Championships and has raced at both Speedo Champions Series events in Jenks, Oklahoma, and Columbia, earning a personal-best fourth in the 200-yard backstroke in March. The Prairie Village, Kansas, native is a three-time first team all-state and all-metro selection. Allegri has helped Shawnee Mission East High School earn two state titles behind three runner-up and third-place finishes over the course of three years at the Kansas High School State Championships.

Head Coach Dave Collins’s Take

“Sarah is coming off of a great summer of Long Course racing. Her work ethic partnered with her potential for improvement sets her up to have a very good college swimming career. She is a proven winner and will make an immediate impact, allowing us to continue a tradition of producing high level backstrokes in the Missouri Valley.”

Haley Allen | IM/Fly/Back | Raleigh, North Carolina | Cardinal Gibbons HS | Marlins of Raleigh

Haley Allen will join the Bears from Raleigh, North Carolina, where she has been a four-time state qualifier. Allen’s best finishes at the North Carolina High School State meet came in her last appearance when she finished runner-up in both the 200 IM and the 100 fly, while she also earned a state title in the 200 medley relay. The previous season, Allen placed third in the 100 fly and fifth in the 100 back. She has been a three-year letterwinner and all-conference selection for Cardinal Gibbons High School, where she serves as a team captain as a senior. Allen has also competed at the NCSA Junior Nationals three times and been named a Scholastic All-American twice.

Assistant Coach Chelsea Dirks Ham’s Take

“We are very excited to have Haley joining our program. She comes from a very strong club background and has the ability to compete in various events for us at a high level. We have a lot of pride for the depth and success we have had in the IM, back and fly events at the MVC championships, and Haley will help us continue that tradition.”

Sara Bacher | Fly/Breast/IM | Heinrich-von-Kleist-Schule | Schwalbach, Germany 

Ranked among the top 200 swimmers in the class of 2016, Sara Bacher is set to join the Bears for the 2016-17 season from Schwalbach, Germany. Bacher primarily competes in butterfly, breaststroke and IM events. Bacher has competed in several events in Germany including the DMSJ Bundesfinale – the top youth meet in the country annually – which was held in Hannover from Nov. 14-15. Bacher set lifetime-best marks in all three races she appeared in, which included the 100 breast (1:04.72), 100 fly (55.64) and 100 free (52.48).

Head Coach Dave Collins’s Take

“Sara comes to us all the way from Germany. Having the opportunity to get to know Sara, I feel she is a perfect fit for Missouri State University and our swimming program. Her event versatility and big meet experience will be beneficial as we continue to work to elevate our program.”

Monica Blake | Breast/IM | Papillion, Nebraska | Gross Catholic HS | Swim Omaha

Monica Blake will join the Bears as a multiple-event school record holder for Gross Catholic High School. The ninth-ranked recruit from Nebraska according to CollegeSwimming.com, Blake earned a personal-best runner-up finish at the Nebraska High School State Championships as a junior in the 100 breast. In that same meet, she also competed in the 200 IM, 200 medley relay and 200 free relay. Blake previously placed fifth and sixth in the 100 breast as a sophomore and freshman, respectively, at the state meet. A two-time all-conference selection, the Papillion, Nebraska, native has also placed in the top 15 at Speedo Champions Series events at the club level. Blake was named a USA Swimming Scholastic All-American as a junior.

Head Coach Dave Collins’s Take

“We are very excited about Monica joining our program. She just keeps improving at a rapid rate and will come in as a great addition to our breaststroke group and training partner to fellow Omaha native Lauren Pavel. Aside from her talents in the pool, her bubbly personality is infectious and will be great to have on the pool deck.”

Brooke Dreiling | Distance Free | Andover, Kansas | Andover Central HS | Wichita Swim Club

The eighth-ranked swimmer in the class of 2016 from Kansas according to CollegeSwimming.com, Brooke Dreiling comes off an impressive showing at the Kansas High School State Championships as a junior. Dreiling took home an individual title in the 500 free (5:06.64) and earned runner-up in the 200 IM by less than a second (2:11.39) to earn first team all-state honors. Dreiling placed fourth in the 500 free and fifth in the 200 IM for a second-team selection as a sophomore, while she also earned first-team honors as a freshman by getting third in the 500 free. The Andover, Kansas, native has competed at the club level, earning two top-10 finishes at the Speedo Champions Series event in Jenks, Oklahoma, last spring.

Assistant Coach Chelsea Dirks Ham’s Take

“Signing Brooke provides us with much needed depth in our middle distance and distance freestyle events. We are really looking forward to having her join our distance freestyle group. Wichita, Kansas, has been very good to us and we are excited to have Brooke join us on campus this fall!”

Vikte Labanauskaite | Breast/Free | Juozo Balcikonio Gymnasium | Panevezys, Lithuania 

Vikte Labanauskaite is a member of the Lithuanian national team and specializes in breaststroke and freestyle events. Labanauskaite has broken her own Lithuanian record in the 400 IM twice over, winning the event at multiple meets along with previously earning a Lithuanian Short Course Championship title in the 200 IM. She has raced in several notable meets for Lithuania, including the Baltic States Championship and the Dzukijos Cup. In March, Labanauskaite won the 50-meter, 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke events at the national championships in Alytus, Lithuania.

Head Coach Dave Collins’s Take

“Vikte is very excited about her opportunity to join the Missouri State program, as are we! She has international big meet experience and is improving at a rapid rate. I see her coming in and helping us to continue our tradition of success in the stroke events in the Missouri Valley Conference.”

Sarah Wehrmeister | Back/IM/Free | Huffman, Texas | Atascocita HS | Eagle Swimming Association

Sarah Wehrmeister will be set to join the Bears in the fall of 2016 after competing successfully at the high school and club level. Wehrmeister finished sixth individually at the Texas High School State Championships in the 100 free as a junior, while she previously earned a state championship in the 200 free relay as a sophomore. She has set school records in the 200 IM, 200 free relay, 200 medley relay and 400 free relay. A two-time first team all-district and all-state selection, Wehrmeister has qualified for regionals three times and also the NCSA Winter and Summer Junior National Championships. In her summer appearance, Wehrmeister placed a personal-best third in the 400 IM.

Assistant Coach Chelsea Dirks Ham’s Take

“Sarah is extremely excited to begin her collegiate career at Missouri State. She will come in and add to our depth in our IM and backstroke events and she will also play a role for us on our sprint freestyle relays. She is a versatile swimmer and we are excited to watch her continue to develop within our program.”

The Bears continue their 2015-16 season at the Purdue Invitational beginning on Friday, Nov. 20, in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Swimming news courtesy of Missouri State Swimming & Diving.

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About Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh

Lauren Neidigh is a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Arizona (2013-2015) and the University of Florida (2011-2013). While her college swimming career left a bit to be desired, her Snapchat chin selfies and hot takes on Twitter do not disappoint. She's also a high school graduate of The …

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