FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Fourth-year University of Arkansas swimming and diving coach Jeff Poppell announced his signing class for the 2010-11 season this week.
Poppell and the Razorbacks will welcome Katalin Bor, Elizabeth Braun, Aubrey Hertzler, Julia Kucherich, Nicole Menzel, Carly Mercer, Molly Milborn, Kesha Naylor and Sigrun Sverrisdottir to the starting blocks next season, adding depth in multiple events.
"We’re extremely excited about our incoming recruiting class," said Arkansas coach Jeff Poppell. "I feel that this group of student athletes, which includes two Olympians and one U.S. National Junior Team member, is every bit as talented as our first recruiting class at Arkansas, which was ranked fifth in the country a few years ago. Our goal is to be one of the finest swimming and diving programs in the nation and we realize that this starts with recruiting. I would like for the top swimmers and divers to view Arkansas as a school where they can receive a great education and excel in the pool."
Bor is one of two Olympic athletes that will be joining the Razorbacks next season. A native of Budapest, Hungary, Bor competed at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing in the 200-meter breaststroke event.
"Katalin is one of the top breaststroke swimmers in the world having competed in the 200m breaststroke at the 2008 Olympics Games for her country, Hungary," Poppell said. "As a 2008 Olympian, European Championship participant, and former bronze medalist at the European Junior Championships, she brings valuable international experience to our program and will help provide strength in the breaststroke events after we lose two of our NCAA All-American breaststroke swimmers, Yi-Ting Siow and Leah Pierce, to graduation after this year. Katalin can also provide depth in the individual medley events. She is delightful and enthusiastic, and very excited to be Razorback."
Braun is an eight-time All-American out of Sprayberry High School in Marietta, Ga. As a junior, she won the Georgia High School 4A State Championship in the 200-yard freestyle and finished second in the 100y butterfly.
"Liz is one of the top backstroke and butterfly recruits in the country this year," Poppell said. "She is a U.S. Olympics Trials Qualifier and was ranked in the National Top 10 in the 200y backstroke for her age group. In addition, she has also demonstrated great strength and success in the butterfly and freestyle events. Her versatility allows us to do some unique things with our meet line-ups and from year to year allow us to focus on events that she has the best chance of scoring in at the SEC and NCAA Championships. She is a wonderful young lady with a very strong work ethic and commitment to the sport combined with a great deal of enthusiasm that will fit in very well with our team dynamic."
Hertzler took third place in the 200y individual medley and the 100y backstroke events at the Indiana 5A State Championships as a junior at Hamilton Southeastern High School in Noblesville, Ind. She was also a member of the 400y freestyle relay that broke the Indiana state record.
"Aubrey is truly a diamond in the rough and a swimmer that I feel has her best years ahead of her," Poppell said. "To date, she has excelled in both the individual medley and backstroke specialties earning High School All-American honors in both the 200y IM and 100y backstroke. However, she has also demonstrated a strong affection towards relays and has posted some pretty impressive freestyle relay splits as a member of Hamilton Southeastern’s 200y and 400y freestyle relays ranked among the Top 10 in the nation last year. She is an extremely hard worker, smart, and coachable and I look forward to the opportunity of working with Aubrey as I feel that she can be a strong contributor to this team in the future. Aubrey is also an outstanding student and will be entering the University of Arkansas’ Honors College."
Kucherich is a native of York, Pennsylvania and one of the top 400 IM swimmers in the country. Kucherich was a U.S. National Junior Team Member in the 400m IM and a 2008 Olympic Trials Qualifier in both the 200m backstroke and 400m IM.
"Julia is one of the top 400 IM swimmers in the country and I truly feel that she has the ability to be a strong player at both the SEC and the NCAA Championships," Poppell said. "A U.S. National Junior Team Member in the 400m IM and a 2008 Olympic Trials Qualifier in both the 200m backstroke and 400m IM, Julia is going to be an instrumental part of our team’s success over the next four years. She brings high level experience in both national and international events to our program. Her strong versatility and ability to excel in numerous events exemplifies what we are trying to build here at Arkansas. Julia is also a Scholastic All-American."
Menzel won both the 200y and 500y freestyle events at the South Carolina High School State Championships this year and is coming off a summer where she qualified for the U.S. Summer Nationals.
"Nicole is coming off a tremendous summer having finished in the top 24 of the 400m, 800m, and 1500m freestyles at the U.S. Junior National Championships and qualifying for the U.S. Summer Nationals," Poppell said. "She is the South Carolina High School State Champion in both the 200y and 500y freestyles. Nicole should be able to contribute immediately for us as a freshman and provide added strength in the distance freestyle events. Nicole is no stranger to hard work, about as tough as they come, a fantastic student, and will fit in great with the personality of this team."
Mercer also attends Hamilton Southeastern High School and is a teammate of Hertlzer’s. A three-time All-American her junior year, she finished second in the 100y freestyle, 200y freestyle relay, and 400y freestyle relay events at the high school state championships. She was also a member of the 400y freestyle relay that broke the Indiana state record.
"Carly is one of the premiere sprint freestyle recruits coming out of high school this year," Poppell said. "A 2008 Indiana High School State Champion in the 100y freestyle, she will be able to immediately help us in the 50 and 100 freestyle events and be a valuable member on all of our relays. We are also very excited to see what she can do in other events as she has expressed a strong desire to continue improving her other strokes as well. She is a delightful young lady, comes from a fantastic family, a very dedicated and hardworking individual, and should greatly excel in the environment that we are building here at Arkansas."
Milborn is the third signee to hail from Hamilton Southeastern High School. A scholastic All-American, Milborn excelled in the pool as well, finishing third in the 100y butterfly at sectionals her first two seasons followed by a second-place finish as a junior.
"Molly has wanted to be a Razorback from the day she set foot on our campus," Poppell said. "She is a delightful young lady that brings a great deal of commitment and enthusiasm to this program. A Scholastic All-American, Molly is a remarkable student in the classroom. She is also a great team person that I envision being a leader for us down the road. A butterfly specialist, I feel that she has a lot of potential for improvement in her swimming and will have an opportunity to help us in the butterfly events over the next four years."
Naylor is a diver from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan who will bring extensive international competition experience to the Razorbacks. She attended the Olympic trials in April 2008 and placed 14th in the three-meter diving event.
"Kesha is one of the top divers coming out of Canada in 2010," Poppell said. "She is an extremely talented springboard and platform diver and is working hard to learn all of the dives necessary to be competitive in both the SEC and nationally. Arkansas has a long tradition of All-American divers that have come from Canada. We look forward to Kesha being another of those in the line of succession."
Sverrisdottir represented her home country of Iceland at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, competing in the 200m freestyle. She also competed at the 2008 European Championships and is the Icelandic national record holder in three events.
"Sigrun competed in the 200m freestyle for Iceland at the 2008 Olympics Games in Beijing," Poppell said. "She has also competed at the European Junior Championships and European Championships. She is the Icelandic National Champion and National Record Holder in the 100m, 200m, and 400m freestyle events. Sigrun is a fantastic short course meters swimmer which I think will bode well for a successful college career. We will look to Sigrun to provide leadership in our middle distance freestyle events and add great strength to our relays. She is also a fantastic student and will help us continue the very strong academic tradition of our swimming and diving program."
This season, the Razorbacks (4-1, 2-1 SEC) have one more meet left in their fall schedule, traveling to the Purdue Invitational, Nov. 20-22, in West Lafayette, Ind. For complete coverage of the Arkansas swimming and diving team, log onto ArkansasRazorbacks.com.