Nov. 9, 2011
BERKELEY - In one of the defining moments of an already storied program, California hauled in arguably the best recruiting class in the modern era of women's swimming with the signing of six blue-chip recruits - Rachael Acker, Rachel Bootsma, Lauren Driscoll, Alicia Grima, Kelly Naze and Elizabeth Pelton - head coach Teri McKeever announced on Wednesday. The Golden Bear program achieved unprecedented success through the last two decades under McKeever, particularly in recent years, in winning the 2009 and 2011 NCAA team championships.
Cal's swimming class includes five of the top-11 recruits in the nation, according to CollegeSwimming.com, with Pelton tied for the No. 1 spot, Bootsma No. 4, Driscoll No. 6, Naze No. 7 and Acker No. 11; Grima is ranked the 15th-best recruit from the state of California. Most of the incoming swimmers have U.S. National Team experience: Pelton and Bootsma are current members of the U.S. National Team and swam in the Pan American Games in October. Acker, Driscoll and Naze have all had experience on the U.S. National Youth Team.
"We're very excited about this recruiting class," McKeever said. "I'd like to thank assistant coach Kristen Cunnane for her outstanding work as my recruiting coordinator. She was truly the driving force behind signing these six women. I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to work with some of these women on various national teams, and I am thrilled that I will work with them on a daily basis at Cal."
"This is a really big day for Cal Women's Swimming and Diving," McKeever added. "This group is going to have high expectations coming in, and it's going to raise our own expectations. Even with our recent success, our program has had the tendency of flying under the radar, and these women have helped us move into the spotlight. We're all looking forward to stepping into new shoes."
In addition, diving coach Todd Mulzet signed Annie Kastler, an NISCA high school All-America diver from Bethesda, Md.
"I'm excited for Todd and our program," McKeever added. "Annie's going to bring a new dimension to our quickly improving diving component."
Cal has produced a long line of amazing backstrokers and captured a total of 10 backstroke championships at NCAAs. Its lineage includes 11-time U.S. Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin, Cal Hall of Fame inductee Marylyn Chiang, 200-back champ Helen Silver, former All-American and Hong Kong Olympian Sherry Tsai as well as sophomores Cindy Tran and Deborah Roth, who finished 1-2 in the 100-yard backstroke at last spring's NCAAs. Bears have won four 200-back national titles, including Silver, who won the NCAA crown in 2006, and Coughlin, who won from 2001-03. In the 100 back, Cal has captured six NCAA crowns: Chiang (1999), Coughlin (2001-04) and Tran (2011).
Once again, Cal will load up on backstroke to continue the legacy. The addition of Pelton, who holds the American record (1:49.16) in the 200-yard backstroke, and Bootsma, the national high school record holder in the 100 back, will continue a tradition of talented backstrokers at Cal.
Last month at the Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, Pelton and Bootsma proved that they are ready to uphold this tradition even before officially enrolling at Cal. Pelton finished the meet with significant hardware, capturing four golds and a silver. Pelton won the 200-meter backstroke (meet-record 2:08.99). She won gold with Cal freshman Catherine Breed in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay (meet-record 8:01.18) and another gold alongside Cal alumna Madison Kennedy in the 4x100-meter free relay (meet-record 3:40.66). Her fourth gold medal came via her important leadoff swim during the preliminaries of the 4X100-meter medley relay. Pelton won silver in the 100 back (1:01.12) behind Bootsma. Bootsma captured gold in the 100-back time with a winning time of 1:00.37, breaking the previous meet record of 1:01.57 that Pelton had set in the prelims. Also in Mexico, Bootsma was the backstroker for the 400-meter medley relay, in which the United States won gold in a meet-record time of 4:01.00.
The Who's Who
Sharing the No. 1 recruiting ranking, Elizabeth Pelton hails from Towson, Md. Pelton currently trains with coach Paul Yetter and the T2 Aquatics Club and previously swam for Bob Bowman at North Baltimore Aquatic Club. While she will bring undoubted strength in the backstroke events at Cal, she will also be a force in the freestyle events as well as the individual medley.
Rachel Bootsma will join the Bears from Eden Prairie, Minn., and the Aqua Jets Swim Team. Although primarily a backstroke record holder, Bootsma is also versatile enough to supplement the Bear's roster in the butterfly and sprint freestyle events. Bootsma is likewise an excellent student, as she is a member of the 2010-11 USA Swimming Scholastic All-America team.
Driscoll, out of Fort Lauderdale Aquatics and hailing from Cooper City, Fla., will make an immediate impact on the mid-distance and distance freestyle events in addition to the IMs and backstrokes. Driscoll won a gold medal as part of the U.S. 4x200-meter free relay at the 2010 Junior Pan Pacific Championships. She is the Florida High School State record holder in the 200 free, and for the 2010-2011 season was the top-ranked high school swimmer in the 500 free.
Naze, from Englewood, Colo., is a butterfly and breaststroke specialist with the ability to help Cal in the IM and freestyle events as well. Currently, she is training with the Denver Hilltoppers. Naze won a gold medal with the U.S. 400-meter medley relay and a silver medal in the 100-meter butterfly at the 2010 Junior Pan Pacific Championships. Naze is also a member of the 2010-11 USA Swimming Scholastic All-America team.
McKeever signed a pair of San Francisco Bay Area recruits in Acker and Grima, who both swim for the Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics club. Acker, who is relatively new to the sport, is an exciting sprint freestyler. As a member of the U.S. team that competed in the 2011 World Junior Championships in August in Peru, Acker swam on the victorious 4x100-meter free relay, which posted a championship-record time of 3:42.85. She is rapidly improving in her short-course events as well, earning high school All-America times in the 50 and 100 freestyle. In the classroom, Acker is an exceptional student from Gunn High School.
Grima, from Woodside High School and Woodside, Calif., is an Olympic Trial Qualifier and high school All-American. She holds six U.S. National qualifying times. She will add depth and versatility to the roster for the Bears in the IM, backstroke, and butterfly events. Grima joins Bootsma and Naze on the 2010-11 USA Swimming Scholastic All-America team.
Adding power to the diving program, Kastler is a high school All-American. She has the ability to make an immediate impact on the Cal Diving piece, as she is a U.S. Junior National finalist in the one-meter, three-meter and platform diving events. Kastler, coming from Bethesda, Md., brings exceptional academic credentials.
2011 California Women's Swimming and Diving Recruits