The i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed, as the Cal Golden Bear women have officially announced what will have to go down as the top recruiting class of 2013.
There were no surprise names to pop up with the official press release today, but there didn’t need to be. The class isn’t overwhelming in size (don’t be surprised if McKeever slides a few more mid-level recruits in for the spring, just to fill out numbers), but in top-end power they are unparalleled.
It starts with the gem Missy Franklin: with some argument, the top women’s recruit ever; with little argument, the top women’s recruit in the last decade. After last week’s Minnesota Grand Prix meet, she is now officially the fastest yards sprinter in the class (not that we needed any more evidence of how good she was).
Cal also has the #3 sprinter in the class in Kristen Vredeveld, who will also be, you guessed it, a Golden Bear next year. That means that Teri McKeever, looking for a replacement for the dynamite that was NCAA Champion Liv Jensen, bring in a pair of 6-foot-plus sprinters who go 22.1/47.9 (Franklin) plus 22.1/48.3 (Vredeveld). That’s unreal.
It goes without saying that Franklin also gives Cal the best backstroker in the class, having been 50.97 and 1:50.10 in the 100 and 200 at the Minnesota Grand Prix. Plus a 1:42.28 in the 200 free. Those are just the events where we know she’s the best, but reaching back further, her 1:55.3 from 2010 in the 200 IM also makes her the best in the class, and we know she’s faster than that now.
Then, look at the rest of the class. I’d rate Celina Li as the best overall IM’er in the class on combination of long course and short course. She doesn’t hold top honors of the 200 yard IM (that would go to Georgia commit Emily Cameron), but in long course she was an Olympic Trials finalist. In the 400, there’s little competition to her 4:06 in the last two years among swimmers in this class for the “best of” honor.
Li’s hidden talent is that, among the huge national and international success of her IM’s, she’s also the best butterflier in the class. Li has already been 52.75 in the 100 and 1:56.82 in the 200.
If there’s a challenger for Li’s honor of best butterflier in the class, at least in the sprints, it’s Farida Osman. She’s an Egyptian and as such has focused on long course, but her best of 59.72 in the 100 would rival anyone in the country. (Indiana commit Olivia Barker is the only other swimmer in the same range as these two in the flys).
Taylor Young gives Cal a potential heir to the breaststroke throne after Caitlin Leverenz’s graduation (they badly need someone to step up there), with bests of 1:02.44 and 2:14.42 in the 100 and 200, respectively. She’s not quite as loftily ranked as the above-mentioned swimmers in her specialty, but this year’s breaststroke group is quite tightly packed so she’s not far off, either.
Rounding out the group is Abi Speers, yet another sprint freestyler with a best of 23.1 in the 50. That ranks her probably 4th in this class in terms of sprinters. It’s not often that someone swimming a 23.1 could be deemed to rank only 4th in their class, but that’s just how special this group is.
McKeever many times went back to places where she’s had a lot of success to pick up this class. Li swims for the same club as star sophomore Catherine Breed did: the Pleasanton Seahawks. Young comes from Neptune Swimming, the same program as former Cal NCAA Champion Amanda Sims. Speers swims for Machine Aquatics across the country in Virginia: the same program as Eva Greene.
Cal picks and chooses where they want to go with their diving recruits, but their diving program is definitely growing. This year, their lone signing (so far) is Hayden Tavona who dives for, of all places, swimming powerhouses Mission Viejo. She’s already a US Nationals qualifier despite having only been doing it for two years (she has a big gymnastics and figure skating background). Those are the type of divers who are fun to watch develop.
McKeever obviously produces results, but it is incredibly telling when certain club programs continue to send their top swimmers back to different college coaches. Swimmers talk, and they know what their former teammates see and hear in college, and this is as much evidence as any that a coach not only develops their athletes well, but treats them right too.