Nov. 10, 2011
University of Minnesota head men's and women's swimming and diving coach Kelly Kremer and women's head coach Terry Nieszner, along with assistant coach Ryan Purdy, announced Wednesday that five student-athletes have signed National Letters of Intent to swim for the Gophers next season.
Kierra Smith (Kelowna, British Columbia), Samantha Harding (Las Cruces, N.M.), Lauren Votava (St. Louis, Mo.), Haley Pietila (Hartford, Wis.) and Lauren Zima (St. Charles, Ill.) will join Minnesota's program as freshmen for the 2012-13 season.
Smith, who swims for the Liquid Lightning Swim Club coached by Emil Dimitrov, was a member of Team Canada at the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, where she placed fifth in the 100 breaststroke. The high school senior was also a member of the 2010 Canadian Junior Pan Pacific Championship Team that competed in Kihei, Hawaii. She holds the Canadian and British Columbia short course meters record (2:22.88) in the 200 breaststroke in the 15-17 age group, as well as the British Columbia long course record in the 200 breaststroke (2:27.93). Smith is the daughter of Andrew Smith and Jo-Ann McLellan.
"Kierra continues the great tradition we have enjoyed of having elite student-athletes from Canada choose our program, and we are very excited to work with her over the next four years," Kremer said. "Kierra is the type of swimmer that will continue to put the University of Minnesota women's swimming and diving program among the nation's best at NCAAs. She is a hard worker and is very committed to pursuing goals at the highest level of our sport."
Harding, who swims for the Wild West Aquatic Club coached by Luke Egnaczak, made the cut for the US Olympic trials in the 400 freestyle. She also made the USA Swimming Senior National cuts in the 500, 1000 and 1650 freestyle and the 400 individual medley, while placing 14th at the 2011 Junior National Championship in the 1500 freestyle. As a member of the Las Cruces High School team, Harding was named a NISCA High School All-American and was crowned a New Mexico State High School Champion on multiple occasions.
"We couldn't be happier that Sam is going to be a Gopher next year," Purdy said. "The more we learned about Sam the more we realized that she would fit in perfectly with our program. She is the kind of student-athlete that will help us continue to add to the great culture we have here at the University of Minnesota, both in and out of the pool. Sam has had amazing improvements over the last few years with her coach Luke Egnaczak, and we look forward to her continuing her improvement in Maroon and Gold!"
Votava, a member of the Rockwood Swim Club coached by Mary Liston, made the US Olympic trial cuts in both the 100 and 200 freestyle events. She also made the USA Swimming Senior National cuts in five events, including the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle, and the 100 and 200 butterfly. Votava also placed ninth in the 100 freestyle and 18th in the 200 freestyle at the 2011 US Junior National Championships. She is the daughter of Steve and Sue Votava and was teammates at the club level with current Golden Gopher Haley Spencer.
"Having one of the top sprinting prospective student-athletes in the country choose our program is always exciting, and Lauren certainly fits this description," Kremer said. "She is a true student of the sport and is willing to do anything to improve as an athlete. She will be an integral part of our team's effort to move up the ladder at the NCAA meet, both individually and as a member of the Gopher relay teams!"
Pietila, a member of the Lake Country Swim Team coached by Mark Kohnhorst, made the US Olympic trial cut in the 200 backstroke, and also made the USA Swimming Senior National cuts in the 100 and 200 freestyle, the 100 and 200 backstroke and the 100 breaststroke. As a member of the Arrowhead High School team, Pietila has been named a NISCA High School All-American on multiple occasions and helped Arrowhead win the Wisconsin Division I State High School Championship in 2008, 2009 and 2010. The high-school senior was a Wisconsin Division I State High School Champion as part of the 200 medley relay in 2009 and the 200 freestyle relay in 2010, and also won the silver medal in the 100 and 200 freestyle in 2008, the 100 freestyle in 2009 and the 200 individual medley in 2009 and 2010. She is the daughter of Greg and Sherry Pietila.
"Haley was one of the most versatile student-athletes to visit Minnesota this fall, and we feel very fortunate that she found the best fit with us," Kremer said. "She has a fiery personality and the type of attitude that will allow her to maximize her potential. It will be fun for us to help Haley develop her talents over the next four years."
Zima, a member of the St. Charles Swim Club coached by Tim Lewarchick, was a Junior National qualifier in the 200 butterfly and was also named the Most Valuable Player on her St. Charles North High School Team by head coach Robert Rooney. She is the daughter of James and Karen Zima.
"Lauren will be a great addition to the Golden Gophers," Nieszner said. "She is an outstanding student-athlete that has an incredible work ethic. Her personality, determination and goals fit right in with the Minnesota program. We have had tremendous success with student-athletes from St. Charles and are very happy and proud Lauren will be representing Minnesota."