SEATTLE, Washington, November 20. FIRST-year University of Washington swimming coach Whitney Hite made a huge step forward with the Husky swimming program today, announcing the signing of four standout athletes to national letters of intent, including Ariana Kukors (Auburn Mountain View High/Auburn, Wash.), the top female recruit in the country. All four swimmers are Washington state natives and U.S National Qualifiers.
Joining Kukors on the women's team are Emilee Jennings (Mt. Rainier High/Des Moines, Wash.) and Ashley Daly (Holy Names Academy/Seattle, Wash.). Russell Mahan (Sammamish High/Bellevue, Wash.) is Washington's first men's signee.
"I couldn't be more excited about this year's recruiting class," said Hite. "The best part about it is they're all in-state kids. It's a goal of mine to tighten up the borders. We want the very good swimmers to know Washington is a great option for them."
Kukors ranks third in the world in the 200 individual medley and fourth in the world in the 400 individual medley. As a member of the USA National Team, Kukors earned a silver medal in the 400 IM at the 2006 Pan Pacific Championships. She also won U.S. National titles in the 400 IM (2004 and 2005), 200 IM (2005) and 100 backstroke (2006). Kukors is also a #1 USA Swimming Academic All-American.
Kukor's has qualified for the Olympic Trials in seven events, including the 400 freestyle, 100 and 200 backstroke, 200 breaststroke, 200 butterfly and 200 and 400 IM. Her lifetime bests would all rank among the Huskies all-time top-10 lists, including school records in the 100 (54.02) and 200 backstroke (1:56.01) and 200 (1:57.46) and 400 IM (4:07.24). Kukors would also rank third in the 500 freestyle (4:51.63) and fourth in the 200 freestyle (1:49.00) and 200 breaststroke (2:15.06). She currently swims for the King Aquatic Club team under coach Sean Hutchison. Hutchison has also been a member of the U.S. National Team staff since 2004 and is a volunteer coach with the Huskies.
"Ariana is a program changer," said Hite. " She is special. She is one of those girls that once in a blue moon comes around. She can single-handedly lift this program to new heights. I feel so fortunate, and so excited that she's going to be a part of Husky swimming. She's just a tremendous talent, I can't say enough about her. The best part about her is she's a great student, and she's interested in academics and achieving a degree. We're absolutely thrilled to have her as a part of our team."
"Ariana is one of the best swimmers in the world," said Hutchison. "This is a unique opportunity for her to enjoy the experience of swimming at the collegiate level for the University of Washington without compromising her quest for international success. Without Coach Hite's insight and forward thinking, this would not be possible. The program is definitely on the rise."
Jennings, who is among the top-10 recruits in the country, swims the sprint freestyle, breaststroke and IM events and just recently qualified for the U.S. Nationals in the 200 breaststroke. Her personal best times would rank her second on the UW top-10 list in the 50 (23.02) and 100 freestyle (50.29), while her time of 2:17.16 in the 200 breaststroke would rank fourth. Jennings is a teammate of Kukors on the King Aquatic Club.
"Emilee is one of the top sprinters in the country," said Hite. "She's really a tremendous talent. She's going to help us both in individual events and in relays. She's just a great addition to this program and she's going to help us in so many ways."
"Emilee is an amazing person whose best swimming is ahead of her," said Hutchison. "Her ability is ready to blossom into some amazing results. She will be a great NCAA swimmer for the University of Washington."
Daly specializes in the distance freestyle events and is a U.S. National Qualifier in the 800 freestyle (8:53.02 LCM). A Montlake neighborhood resident, Daly can see the UW campus from her house. Her personal best times would rank her fifth on the Washington all-time top-10 list in the 1650 freestyle (16:50.11) and 10th in the 500 freestyle (4:58.16). Daly's personal best time in the 1000 freestyle (10:14.25) is less than one second out of the Huskies top-10. She swims for the Issaquah Swim Team under coach Kyle Johnson.
"Ashley has national credibility in the 800 and the mile," said Hite. "She's just a terrific young lady who is a great student. She'll really fill a huge need for us in the distance events. We're thrilled to have her."
Mahan is a breaststroke specialist and has already qualified for the U.S. Nationals in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke events. His personal-best time in the 100 breaststroke is 1:05.30 (LCM), which is less than a second off the NCAA consideration time standard. Mahan swims for the Bellevue Swim Club under head coach Klaas Schenk and is interested in the school of dentistry.
"Russell is one of the top male swimmers in the state," said Hite. "We're delighted to have him. He's going to help us in breaststroke events and he can also do a bit of sprint freestyle so I imagine he's going to be very versatile for us. Russell is a very good student and we're really just thrilled to have him. Again, any time we can get one of the top kids in the state to stay, we're doing a great job."