USC Trojans head coach Dave Salo got an early jump on the season when Kendyl Stewart gave one of the first verbal commitments in the country. The program went into a bit of a lull after that, but these past few weeks he’s put the car into 5th gear and tied a brick to the gas pedal. Within the past 48 hours, Salo has secured a verbal commitment from the #1 (1a/1b/1c?) recruit in the country, Jasmine Tosky, a transfer from a USA National Team breaststroker, Andrea Kropp, and now have gotten oral confirmation from one of the best distance freestylers in the class, Nikki Chang, that she will be headed just southwest from her La Mirada home to USC next fall.
Chang’s best event, at present, is the 500 free, with a best of 4:45.11 (the equivalent 400 LCM is where she has her lone Olympic Trials cut at 4:17.24). That swim, done at NCSA Junior Nationals, placed her 2nd overall, and puts her amongst the elite young 500 freestylers in history (roughly in the top-40 American 16-year olds of all-time).
“I love USC because it has everything I want in a school and can offer me the best of both worlds. It’s great academically AND athletically, and I don’t feel like I would have to sacrifice anything in or out of the pool.” Chang told us of her decision. “When they talked about the Trojan family, they really meant it. I love the team and the coaches, and really saw myself being a part of the amazing Trojan family. The school spirit at USC is second to none and I love Southern California- and USC is at the heart of it! Something just pulled me to USC, and that’s how I knew that I belong as a Trojan! Fight on!”
When she was younger, Chang fell into a category of a sprinter – she was already going 25’s as a 12-year old – but as she’s aged she’s shown huge improvements in the distance events to shift her focus. Still, we know that there’s a good deal of fast-twich musculature in her somewhere, and with already a 1:49.23 in the 200 free (three seconds faster as a junior than as a sophomore), she could be a big piece of that relay.
Moving up to the longer races, she’s definitely got a lot of experience yet to gain in the 1000 (9:46) and 1650 (16:26) freestyles, but she’s still working at being a distance swimmer. Consider that as a junior, she dropped 20 and 30 seconds, respectively, in those events, and wonder at what potential the future might hold for her.
USC doesn’t get as much recognition for their distance group as they should. Chang will find a training partner in Haley Anderson, who is an NCAA title contender in the 500 and 1650 freestyles, when she arrives on campus.