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Sixteen year old New Zealand National Record Holder Melissa Cowen has committed to join the Florida Gators starting in the fall of 2023. Cowen is a native of New Zealand’s capitol, Auckland and does her club swimming with North Shore Swimming Club in Auckland. She joins a growing list of high-profile recruits in Anthony Nesty’s first full recruiting class as the head coach of both the men’s and women’s teams at Florida after Jeff Poppell departed for South Carolina last spring.
Cowen is primarily a breaststroker who set New Zealand’s Short Course National Record last fall at the North Shore Invitational, which served as a substitute to the New Zealand National Championships for Auckland-based athletes who could not attend due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. At that meet, Cowen finished second in both the 50 breast and 100 breast before dominating the 200 breast in 2:23.47 to break the New Zealand record by almost 2 seconds. She also finished fifth in the 200 free and second in the 200 IM.
Cowen’s SCM (SCY conversion) lifetime bests include:
- 50 breast: 31.37 (28.26)
- 100 breast: 1:06.72 (1:00.10)
- 200 breast: 2:23.47 (2:09.25)
- 200 IM: 2:17.54 (2:03.90)
- 200 free: 2:05.72 (1:53.26)
With almost two full years to continue to develop before arriving in Gainesville, Cowen projects to have an immediate impact for the Gators. Both her converted 100 and 200 breast would have qualified her for the A final at last year’s SEC Championships and she would have been invited to last year’s NCAA Championships in both events. It took 59.16 in the 100 breast and 2:08.62 in the 200 breast to score at last year’s NCAA’s.
Florida’s breaststroke group is currently led by senior All American Vanessa Pearl, who holds Florida’s school record in the 200 breast in 2:07.85 and sophomore All American Cecilia Porter, who holds the program record in the 100 breast in 59.22. Pearl will graduate before Cowen arrives, though Porter and Cowen will overlap for one season.
Cowen will join a loaded Gator class of 2027 that is shaping up to be potentially the nation’s best. The class includes #1 Bella Sims, #6 Michaela Mattes, #9 Julia Podkoscielny, #11 Grace Rainey, #18 Lainy Kruger, BOTR JoJo Ramey, Catie Choate and Alex Mitchell.
Nesty has covered all of his bases with his inaugural women’s recruiting class, with Sims being an NCAA scoring (and potentially winning) talent in multiple strokes and distances, Mattes, Podkoscielny and Kruger providing excellent freestyle speed, Rainey and Cowen projecting as elite breaststrokers , Ramey being one of the top backstrokers in the class and Choate having qualified for Olympic Trials in the 100 fly.
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