AUSTIN, Texas, June 11. THE University of Texas women's swimming and diving program announced that it has signed five more student-athletes to join the program in the fall of 2003. W
ith the addition of transfers Laura Jo Leininger (Madisonville, La.) and Paige Nath (Wichita, Kan.), as well as divers Nikki Triplett (Houston, Texas) and Ali Bunting (Grafton, Wis.) and swimmer Kristina MacLeish, the Longhorns' class for next year now stands at 12.
"This group we just signed combines with the seven swimmers we signed in the fall to give us a very strong class," Texas co-head coach Mike Walker said. "All of them have a desire to compete at the highest level as students and as athletes."
Two of the swimmers have already proven they can succeed on the collegiate level. Leininger, a senior transfer from Louisiana State University, was the team captain last year for the Tigers as a junior en route to earning a berth at the NCAA Championships. At the national meet in Auburn, Ala., Leininger placed 25th in the 100-yard butterfly. The Madisonville, La. native also competed on the top-performing relay teams for LSU in all five events, including the medley relays where she owns top times of 24.0 in the 50-yard butterfly and 54.1 in the 100-yard butterfly. She will join Jaclyn Faulkner (New Orleans, La.) as one of two Louisiana state high school champions on the Texas roster after winning the 100-yard butterfly three times during her prep career.
The other transfer in the class is Nath, a junior from Northwestern University. As a sophomore last season, Nath was selected as a team captain and helped lead the Wildcats to a seventh-place finish at the Big 10 Conference Championships. The Wichita, Kan. native owns times of 55.5 and 2:00.8 in the 100- and 200-yard butterfly, respectively, as well as a mark of 2:15.3 in the 200-meter butterfly. Nath also posted the second fastest time for Northwestern last year in the 100-yard freestyle at 51.48 and competed on every top-performing Wildcats relay teams except the 800-yard freestyle relay.
On the boards, head diving coach Matt Scoggin has added two state champions to his roster that are capable of competing on all three boards. Triplett is a product of the Lone Star State and won the Texas state title last year on the one-meter springboard, while Bunting also won the one-meter last year at the Wisconsin state meet. Both displayed their versatility when Triplett participated at the 2002 US Nationals on the platform and Bunting captured the three-meter springboard title at the 2002 YMCA Nationals.
"Ali (Bunting) and Nikki (Triplett) will bring a lot of depth to our diving program because both are capable of competing on all three boards," Scoggin said. "Both of them are champions on the one-meter, but their best event is the platform. They have both displayed a great deal of versatility on the boards and that will be a big strength for us over the next four years."
The only high school swimmer in the latest group is Delaware state champion MacLeish. Under Jamie Skinner of Team Delaware, MacLeish captured state titles last year in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle. Her best marks include 1:50 in the 200-yard freestyle, 4:54 in the 500-yard freestyle and 16:51 in the mile.
Overall, 12 new student-athletes will join the Longhorns squad in the fall of 2003. Seven swimmers signed during the fall including Stephanie Anderson (Scottsdale, Ariz.), Leah Avilla (Livermore, Calif.), Connie Brown (Andover, Mass.), Elaine Ferritto (Columbus, Ohio), Allison McLeod (Austin, Texas), Katie Robinson (Dillsboro, Ind.) and Elizabeth Tinnon (Bowling Green, Ky.). As a class, the 12 athletes represent 11 different states as only Texas features two athletes out of the group in McLeod and Triplett.
"This group of newcomers really embraced the family concept we believe in so strongly at Texas," Walker said. "They fit right in with our team from the moment they stepped foot on campus."