TALLAHASSEE, Fla., December 16. IN their five years at Florida State University, head swimming and diving coach Neil Harper and his staff have forged strong relationships with high school and club coaches all over the country. Those relationships have brought some of the best talent in the nation to Florida State and that will be the case next year as nine swimmers and one diver will join the Seminoles for the 2004-05 season.
Of the ten, six have been a high school or club teammate with a current member of the women’s and men’s teams, including a pair of younger sisters.
On the women’s squad, the newest Seminoles in the fall of 2004 will be Laura Kenney (Plano, Texas), Abbie King (Brunswick, Maine), Kristin Oxford (Charlotte, N.C.), Stacy Rademacher (Charlotte, N.C.), Kate Skaggs
(Jacksonville, Fla.) and Leah Woodard (San Antonio, Texas).
The men’s team will benefit from the addition of Brendan Burke (West Des Moines, Iowa), Billy Jamerson (Savannah, Ga.), Dan Keeling (Westminster, Colo.) and Alex Tilbrook (Largo, Fla.).
"This is the best early signing period that we’ve ever had," Harper said.
"Our staff worked hard early to identify the top athletes and we made it a point to bring them in for a visit. We had so many of them in at the same time that they realized the quality of swimmers that we are bringing in and they signed that same weekend.
"When a person only has 48 hours to learn about the university, it helps
to have a friend, teammate or family member who knows the program to be there to help make the decision. The recruits have seen where Florida Stats has gone over the last four years, that we’re a top 25 program, and
they want to be a part of that."
Following in the footsteps of her older sister, current Seminole Laura, Lindsay Kenney will strengthen FSU’s butterfly events. This season she earned her third-straight All-America honor, to go along with three All-Area selections from the Dallas Morning News. An All-State selection her last three years at Plano Senior, Kenney captured the state title in the 100 fly as a junior then added a sectional crown in the 200 butterfly
the following year. She is a member of the City of Plano Swimmers, under the direction of Steve Mateer.
A big climate change is in store for King, who won the 50 and 100 freestyle at this year’s Maine Class A State Championships for Brunswick High School, earning her All-State honors. She captured both events at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championships and set four league
records on her way to Swimmer of the Meet honors. A US Senior National qualifier in the 50 free, King has earned her way the US Open on four different occasions. At last year’s YMCA Nationals, she placed second in the 50 free before adding a third-place mark in the event at the 2003 YMCA Summer Nationals. King owns nine YMCA state records to go along with her 42 team, pool and age group records for the Long Reach Swim Club under coach Jay Morissette.
The past two years, the Florida State coaches have started to tap into the wealth of talent in the Tar Heel State. Last season brought the men’s
team Mark Nicholls, while this year’s class features two of his former teammates. Rademacher swam with Nicholls at both South Mecklenburg High School and the Mecklenburg Aquatic Club, while Oxford was also a member of the same club team.
An All-American in the 200 and 500 freestyle, Oxford captured the state title in both of those events. Last season Oxford was named MVP of the Providence High School team that captured its second state title in 2003.
Her top time of 2:03.12 in the 200 free surpasses the qualifying time for
the Olympic Trials, US Senior Nationals and US Open.
Joining her teammate Oxford on the All-America list, Rademacher earned the distinction as a member of the 400 free relay team. That squad also took the state title as South Mecklenburg won the team championship. A member of the Charlotte Observer All-Area team, she was named conference MVP as well as team captain. The South Western 4A champion in the 200 IM,
she made her first appearance at the US Senior Nationals in 2003, taking part in both the spring and summer competitions. Rademacher also excels in the backstroke and butterfly events where she has a top 100 back time of 57.62, while posting a 57.48 in the 100 fly.
Skaggs will be the fourth member of her family to swim at the collegiate level. Her older brother Andrew is a current member of the FSU men’s team, while her brother Brady is a graduate assistant. Their father B. Kenyon swam at Tennessee.
A member of the highly successful Bolles’ High School program, Skaggs earned All-America honors from the National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association as a sophomore and junior. This season at the state championships she placed second in the 100 back and third in the 200 free
after winning the title in the backstroke as a junior. A member of the Florida Times-Union First-Coast Team, she holds the 200-meter backstroke mark (2:19.69) at the Florida Senior Championships.
Bolstering the Seminoles’ sprint freestyle events will be the addition of Woodard. Throughout her career, Woodard has earned nine All-America honors. Last season she took home five awards, including a pair of individual accolades. A state finalist her last three years with Churchill High School, Woodard earned All-State and All-City honors while
capturing a regional championships in the 50 free to go along with a district title in that event the following year.
At the state meet she swam the anchor leg of numerous winning relay teams. She holds the school record in the 50 (23.86) and 100 free (52.03). Woodard is a member of the San Antonio Wave club team, swimming for coach Mark Elley.
"We’ve never had the quality and the quantity on the women’s side like we do with this class," Harper added. "They all have national meet experience and can swim a lot of events. This year’s senior class is the best we’ve had here, and any group will be hard pressed to replace them, but this class gives us that chance."
Bolstering the men’s team in the stroke events will be the addition of Burke. The Valley High School product has collected half-dozen All-America accolades, while being named All-State three times. A school record holder in a pair of events, Burke was the runner-up at the state championships twice in his career.
He has been a member of two Senior National qualifying relays, while also
meeting the criteria for the US Open. An Academic All-American, his best times include a 50.38 in the 100 fly, to go along with a 100 backstroke mark of 52.74.
With the departure of seniors Wickus Nienaber and Tal Stricker in the breaststroke next season, Harper addressed an immediate need with the addition of Senior National qualifier Jamerson. At the 2003 Junior National Spring Championships, he captured the title in the 50 and 100 breaststroke events. His mark of 25.91 set a new meet record, while he touched in at 56.15 in the 100-yard distance. Jamerson’s time of 2:04.43
placed him third in the 200-yard event.
Prior to joining the Southern Crescent Aquatic Team, he swam with current
Seminole Emily Breen on the Georgia Coast Aquatic Team. While swimming for GCAT, Jamerson placed second in the 50-meter breaststroke at the 2002
Junior National meet.
Looking to fill the void next year in the stroke events, Keeling will be
able to step in for the Seminoles in the individual medley and backstroke
events. A two-time All-American in the 100 back and 200 IM, he has qualified for the US Open in the short course 400 IM and long-course 200 IM. Last season he captured the Colorado state title in the 200 IM and 100 back. Keeling posted three top-ten finishes at the 2003 Western Region Sectional Championships, including a fifth-place mark in the 200 IM.
Even though diving coach Patrick Jeffery does not lose any divers from either the men’s or women’s team, he bolstered the men’s program with the
addition of Tilbrook. This fall he captured the FHSAA 1A state title for Seminole’s Osceola High School with his score of 546.00 on the one-meter board after winning the district title with a 576.85. As a junior he placed second during the 2A competition.
A teammate of FSU diver Mark Moss on the West Florida Lightning Aquatics
team, he placed eighth at the Junior Olympic Diving Championship on the three-meter board. Tilbrook also placed fourth in the Pan-Am Junior Trials to go along with a sweep of both boards at the American/Canadian Challenge.
"While we don’t lose a lot of numbers on the men’s team, what we do lose
leaves us with a big hole, especially in the breaststroke and individual medley events," Harper noted. "Billy Jamerson is one of the best breaststrokers in the country and Dan Keeling will help us out in the IM.
Brandon Burke can help us in several events and Patrick is excited about what Alex Tilbrook can do."
The 2003-04 edition of the Florida State swimming and diving teams are done with competition until after the New Year. The Seminoles get back in
the water January 4 when they travel to Jacksonville, Fla., to take on North Florida and UNC-Wilmington.