GAINESVILLE, Fla., November 18. UNIVERSITY of Florida women's swimming head coach Gregg Troy announced Monday the signing of seven athletes to National Letters of Intent. The women's class includes Samantha Vanderbilt (Nashville, Tenn.) and Caroline Burckle (Louisville, Ky.). Dustin McLarty (DeLand, Fla.), Daniel Penniman (Pensacola, Fla.), Darian Townsend (South Africa), J.B. Walsh (Virginia Beach, Va.) and Grant Wieczorek (Carmel, Ind.) will join the men's team in 2004-05.
A six-time All-American, Vanderbilt's club coach is former Gator John Morse. Vanderbilt has been a U.S. National Qualifier in the 100 and 200 backstroke for three consecutive years (2001-03). She is a two-time state champion in the 100-yard backstroke, setting the Tennessee state record in 2001 and 2002. She also was a state finalist in eight events with four top-three finishes during her career.
"She has great speed in both the butterfly and the backstroke and should help us out next year," Troy said.
Burckle is currently ranked in the top 100 in the world in the 200, 400 and 800-meter freestyle. She has qualified for the 2004 Olympic Trials in the 200, 400 and 800-meter freestyle and finished in the top-18 in those events at the 2003 Summer Nationals. The 10-time NISCA All-American holds the Kentucky state record in the 500-yard freestyle (4:49.38) and holds relay records in the 200-yard medley relay, and the 200 and 400-yard freestyle relays. Burckle is a six-time individual state champion in the 200 and 500-yard freestyle, winning the events in 2001, 2002 and 2003.
"She's an extremely versatile swimmer," Troy said. "We'll really need her next year because she can cover the voids in the freestyle that we lose to graduation."
McLarty, the younger brother of current Gator All-American Sara McLarty, is a three-time Florida All-Star Team member who made the Senior National cut in the 400 individual medley last year. He also placed eighth in the 5K National Open Water Championships. A multi-sport athlete, McLarty also ran cross country in high school and competes in triathlons. He was a four-time IronKids National Champion and a 2001 World Aquathlon Champion.
"He's a very well-rounded swimmer and an excellent athlete having run cross country and also competed in triathlons and he'll be a great addition to the team," Troy said.
Penniman recently won a pair of titles at the Florida state meet in the 50 and 100 freestyle. His time in the 100 freestyle was the fastest of any swimmer in any class. In 2002, he also claimed a pair of titles at the state meet in the 50 freestyle and the 100 butterfly.
"He just might be the most talented swimmer in the state this year," Troy said.
Townsend is currently ranked 46th in the world in the 100-meter freestyle by FINA and is a South Africa 200-meter short course national champion. He represented his native country at the 2003 World Championships in Barcelona, Spain. Townsend helped lead South Africa to an eighth-place showing in the 400-meter freestyle relay as the leadoff leg.
"He might be the best young sprint freestyler in the world," Troy said.
Walsh was one of the youngest competitors at the 2003 World Championships in Barcelona, Spain while swimming for the Philippine team. He also was a Virginia State champion in the 100 butterfly and earned national All-America honors in the event as well. He was named to the NCSA 2003 Junior National All-Star Team for both the 100 and 200 butterfly. Walsh set four Virginia state records in the boys' 13-14 age group and was ranked first in the nation in the 200 butterfly during that time. He also was a recipient of the Academic Presidential Award at Ocean Lakes High School.
"He fits an area of weakness for us because he's a good butterflier," Troy said.
Wieczorek won four Indiana state championship medals as a junior, including individual wins in the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly as well as relay titles in the 200 medley relay and 200 freestyle relay at Carmel High School. Last year, his times in the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly ranked among the top 10 nationally at the high school level. He set five Indiana record in the boys' 11-12 age group, two in the 13-14 group and one in the 15-16 group.
"He was probably one of the most sought after guys in the country, so we're obviously excited about him," Troy said.