Lia Neal Highlights Stanford Women’s Announced Recruiting Class

STANFORD, California, November 15. GREG Meehan and Rick Schavone announced Thursday that six student-athletes have signed a National Letter of Intent to join the Stanford women's swimming and diving program beginning in the fall of 2013 to continue their academic and athletic careers at Stanford University.

The six-person signing class – Meehan's first since arriving on The Farm in August – includes swimmers Lia Neal, Grace Carlson, Nicole Stafford, Tara Halsted, Bridget Boushka and diver Kassidy Cook.

“Today is a very exciting day for Stanford women's swimming and diving,” Meehan said. “In a very short period of time here on The Farm, we are thrilled to have received a National Letter of Intent from these six amazing young women. Not only will they improve our program in the water and off the boards, but they are fantastic people.”

Neal competed for the United States in the 2012 Summer Olympics, earning a bronze medal as part of the 4×100 free relay.

While prepping at Convent of the Sacred Heart School and swimming for Asphalt Green Unified Aquatics and coach Rachel Stratton-Mills on the club circuit, Neal was one of only three high school swimmers to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic women's swimming team with her fourth-place finish in the 100m free at the U.S. Olympics Trials. Neal was given the opportunity to leadoff the preliminary 4×100 free relay in London and swam a lifetime best of 54.14 to help earn a berth in the evening relay. In the finals session, Neal posted a 53.65 split on her leg to help the United States squad earn a bronze medal while setting an American record in 3:33.24.

Neal also earned three gold medals as part of the 400m free relay, 800m free relay and 400m medley relay teams at the 2011 Junior Pan Pacific Championships. Neal copped silver in the 100m and bronze in the 50m free at the event.

“Lia is an amazing young swimmer,” Meehan said. “Her impact on Stanford swimming will be immediate through her individual and relay performances as we continue to move towards being successful in the future.

“Lia's international swimming success is also something we take very seriously and I look forward to helping her contribute to USA Swimming over the next four years and beyond. Lia's impact will also be felt by who she is as a person — and that may be her greatest talent.”

Carlson, a native of Portland, Ore., competes on the club scene for Tualatin Hills Swim Club and head coach Linck Bergen. Carlson went 26.39 in the 50m free at the 2011 U.S. Junior Nationals and posted a personal-best 23.22 in the 50-yard free.

“I'm very excited to have Grace join our program,” Meehan said. “From the moment she stepped on campus for her official visit, we knew it was the right fit. In the pool, Grace has some dynamic abilities in the sprint free and backstroke events that will help our team over the next four years.”

Stafford hails from Atlanta, Ga., and attends Westminster Prep while swimming for Dynamo Swim Club and head coach Jason Turcotte. Stafford qualified for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in the 100 fly, 200 fly, 200 back and 200 free. The 10-time Georgia A-AAAA state champion earned 10 All-America accolades while teaming to claim the 2011 national title in the 400 free relay.

“What I really appreciated about Nicole through the recruitment process was her commitment to find the right school and not get caught up in the emotion of recruiting,” Meehan said. “Nicole's talents in the pool spread across many disciplines. This versatility is exciting to us and we look forward to working with Nicole next fall.”

Halsted is a two-time defending champion in the 500 free in California's San Joaquin Sectional. The Davis, Calif., native swims for head coach Bill Doughty's Davis Aquadarts. An accomplished backstroker, Halsted has posted lifetime bests of 55.63 (100) and 1:57.83 (200) while also going 2:00.91 in the 200 fly.

“Tara is an incredibly talented backstroker, freestyler and butterflyer,” Meehan said. “Tara's ability in the middle distance stroke events will really help add to the quality of our program.”

A product of Nitro Swimming and coach Tim O'Brien, Boushka attends Texas' St. Michael's Catholic Academy. Boushka is a fly specialist with top times of 56.80 (100) and 2:02.39 (200).

“Bridget is so excited to be a part of our program and we're equally excited to have her here,” Meehan said. “You could feel her energy as soon as she was on campus. Bridget's ability in the fly events will add some much needed depth to our roster.”

One of the premier up and coming divers in the United States, Cook preps at Texas' The Woodlands and was named the 2010 NISCA national champion.

“Having Kassidy here will be amazing for us,” Schavone said. “She's definitely the greatest high school diver I've ever recruited. Kassidy was fourth at the Olympic Trials at age 16, missing the synchro at the Trials by one point. She's a great, great, great diver.

“I couldn't be happier to have a wonderful young lady like Kassidy who is very committed, dedicated, goal-oriented and competitive to join our program.”

What are some of the things Cook could bring to the Stanford program? “National titles,” Schavone said.

Cook posted a pair of second-place finishes during the 2012 FINA Diving World Series and swept the 2011 national titles in the 3-meter synchronized event. Three of the five synchronized titles came with the joint effort of current Cardinal diver Cassidy Krug.

Cook won the 1- and 3-meter events at the 2012 FINA World Junior Diving Championships while also capturing the 3-meter titled at the 2010 USA Junior National Championships. The standout topped the podium off the 1-meter board at the 2010 USA Winter National, USA Junior National and AT&T Diving Championships.

“If you told me on my first day at Stanford in late August that this would be our signing class, I would have been ecstatic,” Meehan said. “I am so grateful to this group for giving Stanford swimming and diving the opportunity to help them achieve their academic, athletic and life goals.”

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