BERKELEY, California, November 14. LED by Missy Franklin, perhaps the most decorated recruit ever to enter the collegiate ranks, the California women's swimming & diving team signed another stellar class to National Letters of Intent Wednesday. The Golden Bears are the two-time defending NCAA team champions and positioned themselves to remain among the elite ranks with a group of newcomers that includes a total of six swimmers and one diver.
In addition to Franklin, the five-time Olympic medalist in London, Cal added top-15 recruits Celina Li, Kristen Vredeveld and Farida Osman, along with accomplished swimmers Abi Speers and Taylor Young and diver Hayden Tavoda.
During the 2012 Olympics, Franklin captured the world's attention with four gold medals and a bronze medal while swimming for Team USA and Teri McKeever, her future college coach who served as head coach of the USA women's Olympic team. Franklin claimed individual gold in the 100-meter backstroke (American-record 58.33) and 200-meter backstroke (world-record 2:04.06), while she was part of winning teams in the 400-meter medley relay (world-record 3:52.05) and 800-meter freestyle relay (Olympic-record 7:42.92). Her 400-meter free relay claimed the bronze in an American-record 3:24.24.
"Obviously Missy had an amazing summer and captured the attention of the United States and the world with her performance in London." McKeever said. "I'm just really thrilled that she's decided to forego a lot of other opportunities and be part of a collegiate program. I'm really excited about having her be here at Cal."
"Swimming goes to the national and international forefront once every four years, and Missy definitely captivated the hearts, particularly of the United States," McKeever added. "To have someone with that high visibilitychoose our University and our program really speaks volumes to her in that she's looking for that complete package. She's interested in a world-class education and wanting to maintain a world-class athletic performance. I'm just thrilled that we can offer Missy and any other young woman that opportunity. I really think it speaks volumes for the program and the University that you wouldn't have to compromise one or the other if you want to achieve your immediate goals as an athlete and your long-term goals as a professional."
Franklin affirmed her love for all things Cal and perhaps its most precious asset - McKeever.
"I first got interested in Cal when I started going on national team trips for swimming, and coach Teri was almost always on the staff," Franklin said. "I always remember looking up to her, and I was always admiring her coaching style and how she coached the girls. I always wanted to be a part of that group, and I always wanted to be coached under Teri. I worked with so many amazing college colleges. But I always felt a really, really special draw to coach Teri, and I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to work with her.
"I think a big draw to Cal for me also was just the pride in saying you have a degree from Cal," Franklin continued, saying that she intends to turn professional after two season to prepare for the 2016 Olympics but remain in school to complete her studies. "I think that's such a great honor to say that. It's such a great school academically. I can't wait to be challenged. Academics have always been really, really important for me. Regardless of my amateur or professional status, I know I'm going to end with a degree from Cal, which is going to be one of the most exciting parts of this entire experience."
Franklin first burst onto the international scene at the 2011 FINA World Championships winning a total of five medals including gold in the 200 back, 400 medley relay and 800 free relay. She won the 100 free and 100 back while also taking fourth in the 200 IM at the 2011 ConocoPhillips National Championships. A year earlier, she was the youngest member of the U.S. team at the 2010 Mutual of Omaha Pan Pacific Championships and came home with a fourth-place showing in the 100 back.
In her most recent competition, Franklin captured five events - the 50, 100 and 200-yard freestyles and 100 and 200-yard backstrokes - at the Minneapolis Grand Prix held this past weekend. Her winning 200 free time of 1:42.28 set a national age group record for 17-18 girls.
Born in Pasadena, Calif., Franklin and her family now reside in Centennial, Colo., where she is a senior at nearby Regis Jesuit High School. At the club level, she swims for the Colorado Stars and coach Todd Schmitz.
Franklin is listed as the No. 1 overall recruit by CollegeSwimming.com, with Li (#5), Vredeveld (#11) and Osman (#12) also ranked among the top prospects in the country.
Li, out of Pleasanton, Calif., and the Pleasanton Seahawks club, is a strong butterflier and IMer who placed sixth in the 200 IM at the 2012 Olympic Trials. She captured bronze medals in both the 200 IM and 200 fly at the 2012 Swimming World Cup and earned a silver in the 200 fly and bronze in the 200 and 400 IM as the 2012 Junior Pan Pacific Meet. At the 2011 World Junior Championships, Li took eighth in the 100 fly.
Vredeveld, a freestyle specialist, currently swims for the Baylor Swim Club in Chattanooga, Tenn. She set a national age-group record (15-16) in the 50 free in 2011 and placed fourth in the event at the 2011 World Junior Championships. This past year, she posted the fastest 50-yard free mark among high school swimmers (22.27) and ranked second nationally in the 100-yard free (48.67) behind Franklin. Vredeveld competed in the 50, 100 and 200 free at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. Her older brother, Nathan, also swam the 200 back at the Trials, while her father, Roger, participated in the 1980 Trials in the backstroke.
Osman, born in Indiana and raised in Cairo, Egypt, represented her home nation at the 2012 Olympics in London in the 50 free, taking sixth in her opening heat in 26.34. In 2011, she became Egypt's first junior world champion, claiming a gold medal in the 50 fly (meet-record 26.69) at the FINA Championships in Peru. Her brother, Ahmed Osman, is a current Cal student.
A native of McLean, Va., Speers qualified for the 2012 Olympic Trials in the 50 free, in which she was timed in 26.61 in her heat. Young, who attends Cardinal Newman High in Santa Rosa, Calif., competed in the 100 (1:11.09) and 200 (2:38.28) breaststroke.
Tavoda hails from Santiago High School in Corona, Calif., and dives for former U.S. Olympian Janet Ely with the Mission Viejo Nadadores.
"This is another class that has young ladies from all over the United States, let alone the world," McKeever said. "I think that some of our recent success has really attracted a national and international face. We've been able to be selective and be sure that we find the right fit for Cal in general as an academic institution and my beliefs and philosophies in particular. I think this group really, really understands what we want to do and wants to be part of it. They're excited about that. They're excited about coming in and adding to a great nucleus. We have a wonderful, young, freshman class. To follow up with another recruiting class like this is exceptional.
"I want to acknowledge Kristen Cunnane, our associate head coach, in our recruiting efforts. She has really spearheaded the recruiting efforts over the last three to four years. It's the key to your program, (along with) the (current) young ladies willing to go out and say they want to have the best of the best. It's kind of an interesting dynamic to bring people in that can potentially take your place on relays or travel squads, but there's a very selfless desire to just see how good the program can be, and know that by having the competition day in and day out is just going to bring out the best in them."
Cal captured its first NCAA team championship in women's swimming & diving in 2009 and followed up with national titles in both 2011 and '12. The Bears sport two members of the 2012 USA Olympic team on their current roster in senior Caitlin Leverenz (bronze medalist in 200 IM) and freshman backstroker Rachel Bootsma (gold in 400 medley relay from swim in heat). The '12 Olympic squad also included former Golden Bear swimmers Natalie Coughlin, Dana Vollmer and Jessica Hardy, who combined for an additional six medals in London.
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