On SwimmingWorld’s Morning Swim show with Garrett McCaffrey this morning, the first big domino of the women’s high school class of 2012 fell when Liz Pelton made her (very early) announcement on where she would be going to college. Pelton, who will compete in the 100 back at this summer’s World Championships, will be headed west to swim with Teri McKeever and the Cal Bears.
Though she will be versatile at the college level, Pelton’s core is as a backstroker, which makes Cal a great decision for her. Among her numerous career accomplishments, as only a high school junior Pelton is already the American Record Holder in the 200 back. She will follow in the footsteps of swimmers like Natalie Coughlin, and last year’s 1-2 finishers in the 100 back at NCAA’s as only freshmen: Cindy Tran and Deborah Roth. Pelton, who currently swims with Bob Bowman at NBAC, has some level of experience working with McKeever already through their mutual exploits with the National Team.
But why make this decision so early? Why not wait until she can hear pitches from other schools, and make her official visits?
Well, for starters, as an elite swimmer, she’s already been to most of the logical candidates for her collegiate training, and met all of those potential coaches. There’s probably not much more for her to hear in recruiting pitches, and it was really quite benevolent of her to not waste programs’ precious recruiting money in an atmosphere where programs are already being cut. This does bring up an interesting debate over why the NCAA frowns upon high school swimmers training and competing with college swimmers and coaches. It’s clear that McKeever, as the head women’s coach at the 2010 Pan Pac Championships, had a little bit of an unfair advantage in contacting Pelton. But that’s a different debate for a different time.
The class of 2012 is LOADED with backstrokers, and with Tran and Roth already on board, it’s likely that they only had room for maximum one elite backstroke to join the payroll, and Cal is always rumored as the ideal destination for the nation’s top backstrokers. Besides Pelton, those committing over the next year will include:
High School Record Holder Rachel Bootsma (50.76 in the 100) out of Minneapolis;
Bonnie Brandon (53.42-1:53.82 in the 100/200 backstrokes) out of Denver; and
Jillian Vitarius (53,43-1:54.04) out of Houston.
And only a year after that, Missy Franklin, who is the holy grail of college recruiting right now, will be making her decision, and she could be better than all of them.
None of these swimmers are necessarily disqualified from choosing Cal-I think it’s a fair assumption that Cal is on all of their short lists. But with an early decision, Pelton takes the pressure off of herself, allowing her to focus on training for London next year, and puts the onus on her classmates to make the decision to move into such a tough and deep backstroke environment, and/or not receive as much money as they might elsewhere.