Riley Pujadas Verbal Commitment Will Bolster Columbia’s Backstroke Group (2021)

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Riley Pujadas, a native of suburban Philadelphia, has verbally committed to swim for Columbia University beginning in the fall of 2021.

Pujadas is primarily a backstroker, with some potential in the sprint freestyles as well. In February, she placed 3rd at Easterns in the 100 yard back. Episcopal Academy doesn’t swim at the Pennsylvania High School State Championship meet; instead, their focus is on Easterns, which is a championship meet for elite private schools in the northeastern United States.

Pujadas had her breakout meet at the NCAP Invitational in December of 2019. There, she knocked almost a second off her best time in the 100 back (from 56.92 to 55.98) and almost 3 seconds off her best time in the 200 back (from 2:03.34 to 2:00.56).

Pujadas missed the chance to swim at the NCSA Junior National Championships in March, which was canceled because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, or the Middle Atlantic Senior Championships. In prior years, many of her best times were set at those meets.

Best Times in Yards:

  • 50 free – 25.08
  • 100 free – 53.42 (sophomore year)
  • 200 free – 1:54.94
  • 100 back – 55.98
  • 200 back – 2:00.56

Columbia’s top sprint backstroker, Julia Samson (54.96/2:01.29), graduated at the end of last season, and the Lions were very thin after her in the shorter races. She placed 8th in the 100 and 14th in the 200 (2:01.29) at the Ivy League Championships. Sophomore Mary Pruden won the B final at that meet in 1:57.52, but for her, the 200 back was a complement to a distance lineup.

Their next-fastest swimmer in the 100 back, Lisa Zhang, was 19th at Ivies in the 100 back in 56.47, and also graduated.

The Lions have done well to help fill that hole in their 2020 and 2021 recruiting classes. As part of the high school class of 2020, they’ve added Mia Saenger (55.28/2:01.80) and Aziza Ganihanova (56.23/1:58.19) to the backstroke group, though Ganihanova is more of a Mary-Pruden-type distance swimmer; and joining Pujadas in the class of 2021 is Hannah Hailu, who carries best times of 56.25 and 2:00.08 in the 100 and 200 yard backstrokes, respectively.

She joins California native Julia Unas (breaststroker), Omaha’s Hannah Hailu (fly/back), and Hong Kong’s Anthea Wong (fly) in opening the book on a growing class of 2025 for Columbia.

The Columbia women placed 6th at last season’s Ivy League Championship meet.

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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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