Joao de Lucca
Courtesy of: Peter H. Bick
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky, December 4. COMING off its third consecutive Big East Championship for the women, and an 11th place NCAA finish for the men, the University of Louisville Swimming and Diving Team announced its early signing period additions for the 2014-2015 season.

A total of nine student-athletes (six women, three men) have committed, and signed National Letters of Intent to the join the Cards in the fall of 2014. For their inaugural year in the Atlantic Coast Conference the Cardinals will add; Ashley LeClair, Marah Pugh, Rachel Grooms, Lauren James, Emily Sarratt, Hannah Magnuson, Thomas Cooper, Todd Owen, and Jonathan Zoucha.

"We are very excited about this particular class," said U of L head coach Arthur Albiero. "We were looking for a strong group of women and men that could help us set a solid foundation both academically and athletically entering the ACC and got exactly that. Each one of these young men and women are not only great students-athletes but each one comes to Louisville with the quality of character that fits perfectly within our program."


Ashley LeClair will join the Cardinals from Mike DeBoor's Lakeside Seahawks. A Louisville native, LeClair specializes primarily in the backstroke and freestyle events. She had a breakthrough summer dropping over a second off her personal best in the 100 backstroke (1:04.21 LCM) and placing second at the NCSA Junior Nationals. She is a multiple-time Junior and Senior National qualifier and held Kentucky state record in the 200 LCM backstroke in 2010 and 2011. She is a team captain for both Lakeside and Sacred Heart High school teams.

"I'm really thrilled that we can keep some of the best in our state, here in Louisville. I think Ashley has tremendous potential, great personality and will be a great fit in our program. I think she has only scratched the surface of her potential", Albiero said.

Emily Sarratt heads to Louisville from Hillsborough, NC. She swims for Duke Aquatics where she is coached by Brent Watkins. Sarratt specializes in the breaststroke and individual medley events. Her best time in the 100-breaststroke of 1:02.86 would nearly place her into the 2013 ACC final. She could also potentially score in the 200 breaststroke where her best has been 2:19.48. Her IMs are very strong as well. Aside from being a US Open qualifier, Sarratt is a scholastic All-American.

"Emily certainly has some speed in the breaststroke, which covers an area that's very important for us. She comes in highly recommended from Duke Aquatics. She is an exemplary student and a very determined athlete", Albiero noted. After making her decision Sarratt expressed her thoughts. "I'm so excited to be a Lady Card. The team and the coaches are amazing and I know they will help me to prosper as a student-athlete."

Marah Pugh will come to Louisville from Macomb, MI, where she swims for Brad Voss and Macomb Marlins during the year and with Kelton Graham and the Club Wolverine over the summer. Pugh is a mid-distance and distance freestyle specialist. She is a Michigan high school state champion and holds age-group state records in the 500 (4:47.98), 1000 (9:53.76) and 1650 (16:26.76) freestyles. Having participated in all the high school sports including cross country and track, Pugh is an all-around athlete. Based on her current times, she could have an immediate impact on the conference level, potentially scoring in the double digits in both the 500-free and the mile.

"It is very exciting to have Marah join our program. She's battled some adversity and training hasn't been the most convenient thing for her. I`ve known her for quite some time, and glad to see that she's continued to make really significant progress, I think the sky is the limit for Marah", said Albiero.

After committing to the Cardinals Pugh noted "I am so excited to attend Louisville next year. Everything felt right about UofL, I absolutely loved it there. Can't wait to start training with such an amazing group of athletes as well as coaches! Go Cards!"

Olympic Trials qualifier and Maryland high school state champion, Lauren James joins the Cardinals from Adamstown, Md. and the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, where she is coached by Erik Posegay. James' versatility will be a big asset to the Cardinal squad. She competed in five different individual events at this summer's Junior Nationals in Irvine. At this past year's World Championship Trial, she placed 20th in the 200 breaststroke with a personal best 2:33.32. Her best times in LCM include 100-breast (1:13.14), 200-breast (2:33.32), 200-back (2:17.51), 200-IM (2:22.16), and 400-IM (4:57.50). In addition, James is an strong student, having being named two-time Scholastic All American. James will graduate from Tuscarora High School in Frederick, Md.

"Lauren is obviously a proven performer at a high level, senior national caliber athlete. She's got a great personality that blended perfectly with the team. She is a team player who comes from NBAC, which has given her a tremendous foundation. She'll bring the focus and the attitude that will serve her well in her college career", said Albiero.

Rachel Grooms will join the Cardinals from Katy, Texas, where she competes for Seven Lakes High School under Coach Jordan Beck and Coach Jack Young at Katy Aquatics. Grooms is a state finalist in Texas 5A championships in the sprint freestyle events. With only three seasons of year-round swimming behind her, she is one of the fastest developing swimmers in the nation. She had a breakout summer posting a 57.7 in the 100 LCM freestyle at the NCSA Junior Nationals, along with recent times of 23.40 50-yards free and 50.83 100-yards free.

"I think Rachel will be a great surprise to everyone including herself. If you look at her improvement curve recently, it has been nothing short of very impressive. In many ways, she has an untapped potential", Albiero noted.

"Louisville has the exact coaching staff I'm looking for with an amazing team that has fun but knows how to work hard and get the job done in and out of the pool. I just know that I'm going to be incredibly happy and successful there," said Grooms.

Another Louisville native, Hannah Magnuson, becomes a member of 2014 Cardinals from Triton Swimming where she is coached by Mike Essig and Scott Paulson. Magnuson is a very versatile swimmer specializing in the backstroke events. A multiple time Kentucky Championships high point winner, Magnuson holds numerous of KY state age-group records. Her current bests are 54.66 and 1:58.41 in the 100- and 200-backstroke, 55.16 and 2:00.19 in the 100 and 200-butterfly, as well as 51.07 and 1:49.55 in the 100- and 200-freestyle. She has been named swimmer of the year for six consecutive years at Triton and named to KHSAA all-state team with Christian Academy of Louisville for three consecutive years. Magnuson is a recipient of a highly prestigious Governor's Scholars award and has been a member of KY Athletic Association Academic All-State First Team for three years.

"I am thrilled and honored to have one of the most talented swimmers out of our city join in our program. More than anything, Hannah as a person will have a tremendous impact on our program for the years to come. From a swimming stand point she is very versatile, very deep in a lot of different areas. We are going to have a lot of fun helping her figure out what events are going to be her main focus on the national level", said Albiero.

Upon her commitment Magnuson announced "In the end of the day, the University of Louisville is the best fit for me. I love the coaches, the team, the family atmosphere. I like where Louisville is going and I want to go there with them. The team's sense of unity was undeniable to me. I am excited and grateful to be a Lady Card."

Thomas Cooper comes to UofL from Triton Swimming. Under the guidance of Mike Essig and Scott Paulson the Louisville native has proven to be the top prospect form the state of Kentucky this year. A multiple time Kentucky High School State Champion, Cooper also owns the Kentucky High School State Record in the 100-yard Freestyle (44.71). His current bests include 20.66, 44.71, and 1:38.94 in the 50-, 100-, and 200-yard Freestyle events; 50.00 in the 100-yard butterfly, and 1:52.36 in the 200-Individual Medley. Cooper is also a two-time USA Swimming Scholastic All-American.

"Tom is an extremely exciting talent. We have had the opportunity to watch him grow and mature athletically and believe that his best swimming is yet to come. He has already proven to be a great competitor at the High School level, but what really captivated me in the recruiting process is his vision for his own swimming career. He has big goals and knew that Louisville was a fantastic fit in facilitating his vision athletically and academically," said Albiero.

Todd Owen, another Louisville native, will join the Cards from the Ralph Wright Natatoriums' own Cardinal Aquatics. Under the guidance of UofL assistant coach and Cardinal Aquatics Head Senior Coach Chris Lindauer, Owen has shown remarkable improvement in his limited time in the sport. His current bests include 58.07 and 2:04.22 in the 100- and 200-yard breaststroke.

"Todd is very intriguing and a very naturally gifted athlete. What is really exciting about Todd is that he has only been swimming year round for the past year. He is a former football player that is only now really beginning to understand how to use and capitalize on his athleticism in the water. Once he fully harnesses his ability he is going to turn some heads on the pool deck," said Albiero.

Jonathan Zoucha comes to Louisville from Portland, OR a product of the Tualatin Hills Swim Club under the tutelage of Linck Bergen. A multiple-time Oregon High School State Champion, Zoucha has also posted multiple US National qualifying times. A freestyle specialist, Zoucha owns personal best of 45.06, 1:37.88, and 4:29.63 in the 100-, 200-, and 500-yard freestyle events.

"I absolutely loved the family aspect of the team and what they had to offer as a team. Campus and athletic centers were absolutely beautiful! So excited to join a team committed to excellence. Go Cards!," said Zoucha on his commitment.

"Jonathan comes from Tualatin Hills, and has proven to be one of the top middle distance freestylers on the west coast this year. We feel that we have an understanding of his background and that will really help him to `plug and play' on his arrival. He will join a solid corps of freestylers that will really sharpen his learning curve," said Albiero.

"This is one of the strongest all-around classes that we have been able to sign in the past several years. We take great pride in identifying great talent from around the country as well as right here at home in Louisville. We expect each and every one of these student-athletes to make a significant impact on our program instantly and for the years to come. Assembling such a talented class takes a monumental team effort by our entire coaching staff, especially recruiting coordinators Rachel Baugh and Ryan Wochomurka," added Albiero.

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