Women's swim and dive squad announces 2013-14 recruiting class


The No. 10 Virginia women’s swimming and diving team announced its 2013-14 recruiting class last week. Eight student athletes will join the program, including three top-25 swimmers in the international 18 and under age group.

Five of the six women from the United States competed in the 2012 Olympic Trials in Omaha. Kaitlyn Jones of Newark, Del. and Leah Smith of Pittsburgh, Pa. highlight the group of standout American swimmers.

“We are very excited about this group of women,” coach Mark Bernardino said. “We have found young women that are not only talented swimmers, but are excellent students and have very strong leadership skills and personal character traits.”

Jones was a finalist in the 200 backstroke at the U.S. Olympic Trials and earned a gold medal in the 200 IM at the 2010 Youth Olympics. Among all age groups, she ranks 50th in the world in 200 back and 67th in 200 IM.

“Anticipating the graduation of Meredith Cavalier in 2013 and Charlotte Clarke in 2014, we felt it was pivotal to find a backstroker who could either sprint or provide us with IM versatility,” Bernardino said in a release. “[Jones] is poised, tough, and a great leader. She is very outgoing, but very humble and hardworking.”

Smith placed 12th in the 800 free and 14th in the 400 free in Omaha after capturing gold medals in both events in the 2012 Junior Pan Pacific Games. Smith ranks 20th in the world in the 400 free and 23rd in the 800 free.

Laura Simon, who hails from Simmern, Germany, is the gem of the two international recruits. Simon finished third in the 100 breast and fifth in the 200 breast in the 2012 German Olympic trials, and she ranks 36th in the world in the 50 breast. Simon should adopt a much-needed leading breaststroke role for Virginia.

“[Simon is] absolutely an answer to our prayers in the breaststroke events,” Bernardino said in a release. “For some unknown, crazy reason we have struggled in the past couple of years to have a world-class breaststroker.”

The other international recruit, Ellen Thomas from Guildford, U.K., performed exceptionally in sprint freestyle and butterfly events in the 2012 British Olympic trials.

Erin McElfresh from Moravia, NY, also stars in butterfly, and Bernardino envisions her as specializing there and as an IM swimmer.

Rounding out the recruiting class, Shannon Rauth from Glenmoore, Pa. is Virginia’s top recruit for sprint freestyle events, and Kaleigh Rosenburg from Leesburg, Va. should serve as a good training partner for Simon in breaststroke.

Finally Maddie Smart from Brookfield, Conn. provides Virginia a solid option at mid-distance freestyle and carries on a family legacy — both her parents attended Virginia.

Bernardino is now in his 35th season with the Cavaliers, and though he is most recognized for his coaching success, his recruiting serves as the foundation for the program.

“Mark is an exceptional coach with years of experience, and I think one of the greatest things about him is his love for this team,” sophomore Sarah White said. “It’s so great to be a part of it, because the alumni down to this incoming class are all connected.”

And next year looks set to be no different if this year’s recruiting weekends are anything to go by.

“Just [the recruits] being here and being a part of what we did allowed them to click with us and fall in love with what we love,” White said. “That’s really special. Each one of them offers something really great to our team and we know they will fit right in with the family we all love.”

Bernardino has yet to announce the men’s recruiting class.

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