Baylor School held a signing party Wednesday evening to celebrate with four girls' swimmers who signed NCAA Division I letters of intent and another who could have but picked a Division II school instead.
"The D-II team is very good, probably better than her D-I options," Baylor coach Dan Flack said of Hannah Peifer's decision to go to Queens University at Charlotte. "A lot of professionals and Olympians train there and go to school there."
Baylor alumnus Evante Gibson is a Queens sophomore, "and it's been wonderful for him," Flack said.
Baylor has no senior boys' swimmers this year, but four other representatives of arguably the best girls' class in school history are moving on. Kristen Vredeveld is headed to the top women's program in the country, California (Berkeley), while Kimberlee John-Williams is going to Georgia, Mikaya Reynolds to Marshall and Emma Lochmaier to the Air Force Academy.
"They're part of a pretty special group," Flack said. "I will match this particular class's accomplishments against any other athletic team around here. They're 32-0 in dual meets with half a year to go, and they've won three state championships and two national championships and been ranked second the other year. And they have multiple, multiple state, even national records."
The 6-foot-1 Vredeveld qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyle events this year, and at the time of her commitment to Cal she was CollegeSwim.com's No. 11 prospect for the class of 2012.
"She's going to a tremendous program," Flack said. "She'll be surrounded by the best of the best, and I think she'll fit right in. I envision her -- and they do, too -- as a building block for more success and championships."
Vredeveld also considered Southern Cal, Stanford, Georgia and Virginia but was swayed partly because Cal "has been No. 1 in women's swimming three of the last four years, and it's an incredible academics school."
John-Williams, who's from Trinidad and Tobago and like Vredeveld has had international success, picked Georgia over Virginia, Texas A&M and Tennessee. Flack said Georgia's coaches do an especially good job working with international athletes and their competitions beyond NCAA meets.
"She has a skill set that will translate very well to collegiate swimming," he added.
"There's no doubt in my mind I'll get better there," said John-Williams, a butterfly and backstroke specialist.
Reynolds that the excitement of campus life, including football, was part of her choice of Marshall. Florida Atlantic and UNC-Asheville were two other possibilities for her. She does the individual medley as well as the breaststroke.
Flack said he was "delighted" she decided to continue in the sport and predicted that she would help Marshall's swimmers grow as a team. "She's a great teammate," he said.
Lochmaier, a middle distance freestyler, was looking at Johns Hopkins, MIT, Emory and the University of Chicago before visiting the Naval Academy and seeing the possibilities of a military school. She liked Navy but then visited Air Force and liked it even better.
"A place with like-minded peers is one of the things I found at Air Force -- people who find challenges inspiring," she said.
Said Flack: "Any time a choice comes down to service academies shows it's a pretty special person. Emma is very mature, and she'll help their swim program."
A backstroke, butterly and IM competitior, Peifer picked Queens over Miami (Ohio), Richmond and Denison
"I like the size -- it's a little over a thousand, undergraduates -- and I like the girls and how they interact with each other," she said.
"This is very satisfying for me," Flack said, relating that "we tell our kids all the time" that one of the coaches' priorities is to "give them options" for college and beyond.