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Incoming Swimming & Diving Class Ranked 24th in the Nation
FORT MYERS, Fla. – FGCU head coach Neal Studd announced the addition of 14 student-athletes to the 2011-12 FGCU swimming and diving roster that includes a class of 10 swimmers ranked 24th in the nation according to Collegeswimming.com.
“I am excited about this class and just so proud that we have been ranked in the Top-25 in the nation,” said Studd. “Being ranked ahead of Big Ten, SEC and ACC schools is quite remarkable with our level of resources. With our program eligible for the NCAA’s this year, a big year recruiting was the goal going into year five of the program. It was the goal five years ago that this year would be a big one.”
Joining FGCU in the fall are freshmen Kathryn Brewer (Jacksonville, Fla./Creekside), Maggie Holling (West Palm Beach, Fla./John I Leonard), Charlotte Molenda (Middletown, R.I./Middletown), Cassie Niles (Trinity, Fla./Sandra Day O’Connor (TX)), Devon Robins (London, United Kingdom/The Grey Coat Hospital), Natalie Rochette (Naples, Fla./The Community School of Naples), Blaine Small (Glenrothes, Fife, U.K./Kelly College), Emma Svensson (Uppsala, Sweden/Celsiusskolan) and Karen Vilorio (Tegucigalpa, Honduras/Elvel School), along with Bowling Green State University transfer junior Jamie Akenberger (Bowling Green, Ohio/Bowling Green HS).
Freshmen Cayla Collins (Largo, Fla./Osceola), Taylor Malewicki (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny), Brittany Mathers (Lithia, Fla./Newsome) and Rachel Thigpen (St. Petersburg, Fla./Shorecrest Prep) also join the Eagles as divers under second-year head coach Andy Goe, but were not included in the ranking system.
“We also had to cover the loss of our two outstanding senior divers on the boards and coach Goe did a great job of bringing in four great divers,” said Studd. “I don’t know if we can top this class; we really have overachieved and I can’t wait to start molding the team together with our strong returners. We have a very talented senior class so this year looks to be a promising one.”
Akenberger spent two seasons at BGSU and had a very successful freshman season. She landed in the BGSU record book with the fifth-fastest school time in the 500 free (5:00.21), finishing in 16th-place at the MAC Championship and sixth-fastest school time in the 200 back (2:05.14), for a 20th-place finish. At the 2011 MAC Championship, Akenberger posted a career-best time in the 100 free with a time of 53.13.
Brewer joins FGCU after a successful stint at Creekside High School where she was named the 2007 Rookie of the Year and a two-time MVP. She is a three-time Jacksonville All-First Coast Swim team selection and a two-time Class 2A FHSAA State Finalist. Brewer was also a two-time St. John’s All-County selection and holds the St. John’s River Conference high school record in the 100 fly with a time of 57.70.
Collins dove for WFLA under the direction of Tony Periello and was the varsity diving team captain at Osceola. This past season, Collins was the district champion and region runner-up in 1-meter diving. She went on to place eighth at the Class 2A state meet in Orlando. In 2010, she earned the Top Ten Diving Award and helped Osceola to an undefeated season. Collins was nominated for St. Petersburg Times Athlete of the Year and was the first runner-up for Osceola High School Athlete of the Year.
A West Palm Beach, Fla., native, Holling travels west to join FGCU as an addition to FGCU’s backstroke and freestyle lineup. She was a three-time team captain for John I Leonard and a three-time Class 3A FHSAA State finalist. Holling is a Sun-Sentinel Swimming and Diving Academic Honor Roll honoree, graduating in the top 10 percent of her class.
Malewicki was named Most Valuable Diver at Bishop Kenny. She was a four-time All-First Coast first team selection. Malewicki was coached by Melisa Moses Hyams on the North Florida Diving team. The Jacksonville, Fla., native participated in four AAU National Championships. Malewicki plans to major in elementary education.
A teammate on the WFLA diving team, Mathers is a two-time state finalist. She placed first at conference and districts in 2009 and 2010, and took second at the regional meet. The human performance major was named to the Tampa Tribune’s All-Hillsborough County Swim team and was the Alonso MVP in 2007 and 2008. Mathers posted a career-best score of 462.35 in the 1-meter (11 dives) event at the 2010 Western Conference meet.
A four-year letterwinner at Middletown High School, Molenda travels south to continue her swimming career. Under the direction of Tim Anderson, she was named captain her junior and senior seasons as well as being named an All-Division honoree. The Rhode Island native was named an All-State athlete and team MVP after her senior year. Molenda is a freestyle and breaststroker while swimming for the Attleboro Bluefish under Chuck Batchelor.
One of the five recruits to sign a National Letter of Intent (NLI), Niles was the team captain at Sandra Day O’Connor under Nick Haidin. She holds nine school records and two district records and is a Junior National qualifier in the 100 free. The Texas native is a three-time 100 and 200 free district champion and a two-time state qualifier. Niles posted career-best times of 51.53 in the 100 free and 1:51.40 in the 200 free. Niles also swam for Alamo Area Aquatics Association under Bill Thomas.
Robins also signed an NLI to join the Eagles in the freestyle and fly events. She took silver and bronze at the National Youth Championships two consecutive years in the long course 100 fly. The United Kingdom native was a gold medalist in the long course 200 free at the Geneva International meet in 2011. Most recently, Robins collected the cup for best female junior and open swimmer at the Middlesex Winter Championships, winning seven gold medals, including a clean sweep in the butterfly events.
Staying near her hometown of Naples, Rochette comes to FGCU after five trips to the state championship. She is a 2010 district champion in the 200 IM and 500 free and regional champion in the 200 IM. A four-time Naples Daily News All-Area selection, Rochette holds seven records at the Community School and qualified for the Columbus Grand Prix (2010) and Ann Arbor Grand Prix (2011). Rochette competed for T2 Aquatics under Paul Yetter.
A British National finalist in the 200-meter fly, Small signed an NLI with FGCU. She won the Scottish Junior Championship in 200-meter fly at the Scottish Short Course Championships and is the Scottish Schools record holder for the 100-meter and 200-meter fly. Small was selected for the 2010-11 Scottish National Senior Bronze squad and swam for Robin Brew at Kelly College and John Szaranek’s Carnegie ASC.
Svensson, who ranked ninth among Division I recruits by CollegeSwimming.com, signed an NLI and is a two-time District Swimmer of the Year and five-time Most Outstanding Swimmer on the Junior Nationals Upsala Swim Club. She is coached by Mikael Eriksson and won two silver medals at the European short course nationals in 2009 with her Swedish National relay team. The National Junior Champion of Sweden, Svensson specializes in the 50-meter backstroke. She holds the Swedish national senior and junior record in the event with a time of 29.07, set at the 2009 Swedish Championships.
Joining the diving squad, Thigpen is a six-time All-Bay Conference honoree and was named to the St. Petersburg Times' All-County girls swim team. She was named to the All-State team five consecutive years. Alongside Collins and Mathers, two other incoming divers, Thigpen dove for West Florida Lightning Aquatics under the direction of Tony Perriello.
From Tegucigalpa, Honduras and member of Barracudas Swim Team, Vilorio is the final NLI signee for the Eagles. A member of Honduras National Team, Vilorio participated at 2009 FINA Worlds Championships in Rome and 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore. She was the 2008 and 2010 Honduras Swimmer of the Year and Central American and Caribbean Junior medalist. Vilorio already qualified for the Pan American Games in Guadlajara, Mexico and is training with the Davie Nadadores Senior Team.
“I feel like we have quality and quantity. This is a special group of young ladies and they cover almost every event including the boards,” said Studd. “I am happy they are not just special athletes, but they are great students and will make great teammates too.”
Junior-to-be Eva Lehtonen (Rochester Hills, Mich./Florida) will compete in her first meet for FGCU after transferring from Florida in January. Lehtonen, who finished 33rd in the 800-meter free and 35th in the 400-meter free at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, holds five Finnish National Records. Among Lehtonen’s records is a 1500 free record that dated back to 1983 before she re-established the mark at the 2007 USA Junior National meet.
The 14-member class joins 20 returning swimmers and divers who won their third Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association (CCSA) Championship in February. The returners picked up six gold medals, seven silvers and three bronze, while winning three out of the five possible relay events at the league meet.