Alabama Inks Big-Name Signing Class

TUSCALOOSA, Alabama, May 1. AFTER inking 12 in the early signing period, first-year Alabama swimming and diving head coach Dennis Pursley and his staff have added another bumper crop of student-athletes in the late signing period, adding nine swimmers and a pair of divers.

“This group of student-athletes is really going to help us take a leap forward next year,” Pursley said. “I feel like this group, along with those that we signed in the fall, will potentially give us a game-changing class that will get us moving forward to where we want to be with great speed. Signing them is the first step, now we need everyone to continue to work hard in preparation for the fall.”

While setting the standard for the Alabama swimming and diving teams' turnaround with a culture shift during the 2012-13 season, Pursley and company have also been working hard to build the Crimson Tide's talent level back to what it was in the program's best days. Between the two signing periods this season, the Tide's 2013-14 incoming class includes 10 women and 13 men.

The Tide's spring signees include three Olympians — Karolina Szczepaniak, Anton McKee and Kristian Gkolomeev. Szczepaniak in addition to competing in London during the 2012 Olympics, also competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympiad.

The Crimson Tide's spring signees include:

Leah Bird (Butterfly/Newcastle, Australia): was a finalist at the 2012 Australian Olympic Trials in the 200 butterfly.
Taneka Kovchenko (Diving/Brisbane, Australia): medaled at both the Australian Junior Championships and Australian Open Championships, also competed in the British Junior National Championships.
Bailey Scott (Freestyle/Backstroke/Tupelo, Miss.): won 16 Mississippi State Championships and set multiple state records.
Karolina Szczepaniak (Individual Medley/Warsaw, Poland): competed for native Poland at the 2012 London Olympics, taking 31st in the 400-meter individual medley.

Kristian Gkolomeev (Athens, Greece): competed for Greece in the 2012 London Olympics, taking 31st in the 100-meter freestyle.
Alex Gray (Freestyle/Birmingham, Ala.): is the 2012 Alabama State Champion in the 50 freestyle.
Jack Hadjiconstantinou (Freestyle/Paralimni, Cyprus): holds the Cyprus national record in the 1,500-meter freestyle and won the same event at the Balkan Junior Championships.
Dylan Marin (Diving/Pittsford, N.Y.): is a New York state finalist who broke former UA All-American Josh Lubber's state record.
Anton McKee (Freestyle/Individual Medley/Hafnarfj?r?ur, Iceland): competed for Iceland in the 2012 Olympics and FINA World Short Course Championships and is a five time Icelandic national record holder who recently qualified to represent Iceland at the 2013 World Championships in the 400 IM and 1500 Freestyle.
Michael Messuri (Freestyle/Fort Meyers, Fla.): is a Florida State Champion in the 500 freestyle and a multiple-time districts and state finalist.
Pavel Romanov (Breaststroke/Moscow, Russia): is a multiple time medalist in the Russian Junior National Championships who also represented Russia in FINA World Cup events.

In addition to its signees, Alabama is also slated to add five invited walk-ons, including Kyle Simpson and Carlos Rezzonico on the men's side as well as Maddie Kamman, Dakota Toner (Diving/Palm City, Fla.) and Sarah Musselman (Diving/Mansfield, Texas) for the women.

Last fall, the men inked Reece Boyd, Taylor Charles, Scott Fortier, Jacob Kelso, Connor Oslin and Carl Madden to national letters of intent, while the women signed swimmers Bridget Blood, Caroline Korst, Bonnie Macdonald, Emma Saunders and Emily Zapinski as well as diver Taylor Zablocki.

Saunders joined the Tide for the 2013 spring semester and broke the school record in the 200 freestyle at her first Southeastern Conference Championships while Macdonald has qualified for the Australian World Championship Open Water Team since signing.

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