June 10, 2004
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –
When Florida State University swimming and diving head coach Neil Harper signed his fall class, he used a lot of prior relationship within the team, signing several swimmers and divers that were relatives or former teammates of current Seminoles. This spring the ACC Coach of the Year played to his strengths, signing swimmers from Florida, Great Britain and South Africa.
Joining the Tribe in the fall on the women’s side will be a trio of new recruits: Romy Altmann (Camps Bay, South Africa), Katie Metka (Largo, Fla.) and Brittany Stevens (Peachtree City, Ga.). Rounding out the men’s class is six new swimmers: Jarryd Botha (Worcester, South Africa), Euan Dale (Berwickshire, Scotland), Edward Denton (Maidenhead, England), Matt Hammond (Daytona Beach, Fla.), Ian Powell (Guernsey, Channel Islands) and Kyle Young (Oviedo, Fla.).
“What we were looking to address is replacing some of the stellar talent that we’re losing,” Harper said. “When you look at what’s going out the door with (Emma) Dutton, (Andree-Anne) LeRoy and (Rachel) Dong, those are three high profile swimmers on the women’s side and on the men’s side the main one is Wickus (Nienaber). All four of those swimmers have been to the NCAA so we’re looking to fill some big shoes.
“Anyone what comes in with times that are faster than our school records says enough about their credentials. What this entire class does is gives us some versatility. By bringing someone like Romy, Jarryd or Ian that will allow us to utilize Emily Breen, Thomas Bishop or Chris Vythoulkas in their stronger events.”
In the fall, Harper signed a host of women’s swimmers who will be able to compete right away and Altmann will fit in perfectly. Last year she captured a trio of gold medals at the All-Africa Games in the 50, 100 and 200 meter backstroke. Her converted times of 55.18 and 1:58.58 in the 100 and 200 are faster than the current Florida State school records
Last season, Metka helped Palm Harbor high school placed third at the 3A state championships. She earned a gold medal as a member of the winning 200 freestyle relay, while taking part in the 400 free quartet that placed third. At the Pinellas County Athletic Conference Championships, both relays placed first. Metka’s individual times include 24.37 and 52.70 in the 50 and 100 free as well as a 100 back time of 1:00.10.
“Romy is a kid that is just getting into her prime and we’re real excited about having her here,” Harper noted. “Katie is a young talent with a lot of potential and by coming to FSU and getting in the right program she can make huge strides. Brittany is sort of a late bloomer. She has had some great coaching the last few years-working with Emily Breen’s club coach-and we’re looking for some continued improvement from her.”
The final piece of the women’s recruiting puzzle is Stevens from neighboring Georgia. A four-time state qualifier, Stevens is the first swimmer from Starr’s Mill high school to earn a Division I scholarship. This season she placed third in the 100 fly with a time of 57.02, while her 50 free mark of 25.21 is a county record.
“On the men’s side I had a wish list and there were five swimmers on it and we got four of them,” Harper added. “The fact that we went head to head with some great teams, and got these swimmers to commit here, says a lot about where our program is going and the potential of this team.”
Just as Altmann will impact the women’s program, her countryman Botha will have the same affect on the men’s team. At the 2003 South African Open National Swimming Championships he placed second in the 200 backstroke and fourth in the 50 and 100 back. His converted times of 49.21 and 1:47.32 in the 100 and 200 backstroke would ranked him in FSU top five.
One of three new Seminoles that attended Millfield School in Street, Somerset County, England, Dale will contribute immediately in the individual medley events. Recently at the British Olympic Trails, he broke a 14-year old Scottish record with his time of 4:24.32 during a bronze medal performance in the 400 IM. Converted, that time would break the Seminole school record. He just missed another national record with a third-place mark of 2:04.00 at the 200-meter distance.
“Jarryd will come in, have NCAA potential and challenge right away for the ACC crown in the 100 and 200 backstroke,” Harper commented. “Euan is going to take our IM into a new dimension. His times already meet NCAA qualifying standards and our school records. With his credentials he has the potential to be the fastest freshman in the country in his events.”
The second newest member of the FSU men’s team from Millfield is Denton. A freestyle specialist, he joins the Seminoles with marks of 20.62 (50 free), 44.98 (100 free) and 1:41.60 (200 free). Denton’s times in the 50 and 100 free would have placed him in the ACC’s top ten last season.
Harper and his staff are always happy when they can get the state’s best talent to come to Tallahassee and they landed one in Hammond. A member of Spruce Creek’s 3A state championships 200 medley relay team, he earned All-Central Florida and All-Volusia/Flagler County honors from the Orlando Sentinel. Individual, Hammond was runner-up in the 50 free with his time of 21.58 while taking part in the third-place 400 free relay.
“Matt Hammond is a home grown talent from Daytona who has mounds of potential,” Harper said. “We’re excited to get him into our weight program and with some skill work he can really turn some heads. It says a lot to have a sub-21 staying in state and going to Florida State. Ed is a little more polished and a little bit more down the road than Matt. We’re excited to see what he can do; he’s going to be very competitive in conference.”
The third Millfield teammate to join the Seminoles is Powell. Like Botha, he will step in right away during the backstroke events and is more than capable in the butterfly. His times include 50.90 and 1:48.22 in the 100 and 200 backstroke.
“Ian is another talent that will come on by leaps and bounds,” Harper added. “He has goals of swimming on the international level and with some improvement he can qualify for the NCAA meet and be in the top three at ACCs.”
Any questions that Young had about the tradition of Florida State swimming could have been deferred to his high school coach Charlie Rose, a two-time All-American on the 800 free relay for the Seminoles from 1990-91. Young earned All-Seminole County honors from the Orlando Sentinel after taking fourth in the 200 freestyle at the 3A state meet.
“The Florida State cycle has come full circle with Kyle Young, who is coached by one of our former All-Americans,” Harper commented. “He’s a talent with big size. Once we get him in here training with Thomas Bishop and Steve Roof he is really going to take off. We’re excited to keep an instate talent here.”
The Seminoles had their best season during Harper’s fives years in 2003. The women’s team scored its highest finished ever at the NCAA meet when it came in 17th. Dutton and diver Tiffany Manning both earned All-America honors as did four Tribe relays. For the second straight year, the men’s team finished second at the ACC meet with league champions Nienaber and Joel Roycik advancing to the NCAA meet.