MU swimming flinging wide net

New Tigers recruits add to team’s large number of out-of-state swimmers
Friday, January 5, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:41 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Texas. Virginia. Michigan. Florida. How about Saskatchewan?

Of the 24 swimmers on MU’s women’s swimming and diving team, only two come from Missouri. Junior Jill Bastlen is from St. Louis, and sophomore Carly Sullivan if from Columbia.

That’s less than the number of swimmers and divers from Canada. Sophomore Allie Bennett is from Ontario, Kendra Melnychuk, another sophomore is from Saskatchewan, and junior Taye Patterson is from Quebec. Seven others come from Texas.

Thursday, coach Brian Hoffer added five recruits to next year’s roster, none of them from Missouri. Hoffer described the recruits as “five quality women that make us better.”

The recruits come from across the country, marking the first time that Missouri has had much recruiting effort in California and Florida according to Hoffer, who attributed the success to the personal aspect of MU’s recruiting.

“We know them,” he said. “We know their families. We’re pretty involved.”

Hoffer expects recruit Francie Szostak, of Northbrook, Ill., to make the biggest impact early next season.

“She’ll be a big relay swimmer,” Hoffer said. “She’s been a very good relay swimmer.”

Szostak, 6-foot-1, was an four-year All-American at Glenbrook North High School. She holds school records in the 200 freestyle, 500 freestyle, 200 free relay, 400 free relay and 100 backstroke. She also received the Illinois High School Association’s Senior Swimmer of the Year award.

Szostak, who started swimming when she was 5, said her parents “shoved me into a bunch of other things,” but swimming was what she loved. She said she wasn’t coordinated enough for anything else.

She said the 200 freestyle is probably her favorite race. She swims a tough 500 freestyle too, but “it can be boring,” she said.

Szostak said choosing a college was tough, but Missouri “just felt kind of right.”

“It just seemed like the right choice,” said Szostak, who plans to pursue a degree in advertising and communications.

Her mother, Mary Szostak, said she couldn’t be more proud of her daughter’s accomplishments, both athletically and in the pool. Francie Szostak, a member of the National Honor Society, was an 11-time All-American, achieving the honor at least once in the 200 and 500 freestyle, the 200 freestyle relay and the 400 freestyle relay.

Her sophomore year, she had to swim part of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament from a kickball injury. Mary Szostak said her daughter is fully recovered and “faster than before the injury.”

Mary Szostak and her husband Martin, both Northwestern graduates, said they are “super-excited” about what their daughter will do for Missouri.

“Over Christmas, we purchased probably 15 Mizzou swimming and diving t-shirts for family members,” Mary Szostak said.

Her mother said that Francie Szostak chose Missouri over Notre Dame, Northwestern, Kentucky and Iowa. Although the whole family was impressed with the campus, Mary Szostak said that what it came down to was the people at Missouri.

“We were very impressed with the coaching staff and current team members,” she said.

Martin Szostak said he met with Hoffer before his daughter made the decision to come to Missouri.

“I felt like Francie would be in good hands with Brian and his staff,” Martin Szostak said. “(I had a) real good feeling with the overall atmosphere.”

He also said the way the male and female swimmers practice together made both teams feel “like a family.”

Szostak should fit right in with Missouri’s program academically too. Hoffer said he chose all five recruits because of their athletic abilities, as well as academic abilities.

The Szostak family plans to make the eight-hour drive to Missouri as much as they can next fall to see their daughter swim for Missouri. They also have another daughter, Donna, who is a sophomore at Glenbrook, already an All-American as well.

Hoffer said he hopes that Francie Szostak will “help ease the loss” of senior Shannon Hogan next year.

“(Hogan) is going to be tough to replace,” he said.

Hogan, the Missouri record holder in the 50 free, as well as a member of the record-holding 200 free relay and 400 free relay teams, was the 2006 MU Women’s Most Valuable Player and was selected first-team Academic All-Big 12 for 2006.

Missouri also loses three-year-lettermen Amy Charley, Rachel Wender and diver Kimm Massaro, but Hoffer said that November’s early recruits will help fill the gaps.

“We don’t lose numbers,” he said. “We lose quality, not quantity.”

Other recruits include breaststroke specialist Morgan McCleery of Celina, Texas,

“Morgan is a very talented athlete and a great person with a lot of energy,” Hoffer said. A cross-country and swimming standout in high school, Hoffer said he’s anxious to see McCleery “concentrating her athletic efforts 100 percent on swimming here at Mizzou.”

Anastasia Sotiropoulos of Buena Park, Calif., also joins Missouri next season. Competing in a variety of events in high school, Hoffer expects Sotiropoulos to “step in right away and help us out in five-plus events.”

A butterfly stroke specialist, Melissa Jamerson of Jacksonville, Fla., caught the eye of Hoffer.

“Melissa is the fastest 200 butterflyer we’ve ever signed here,” he said. “In addition to being very solid in the butterfly, she is also going to help us in some other events.”

Abby Zepeda of Scottsdale, Ariz., may help fill the gap left by senior diver Massaro at the end of the season. Zepeda placed second in the Arizona state 4A championship the last two years.

“(Zepeda) comes from a hard-working, down-to-business club team, which will make for an easy transition into our program,” Hoffer said.

The five recruits were a part of November’s early recruitment. A later recruitment, in April, will bring in more swimmers and divers, but Hoffer said NCAA regulations prohibit him from identifying possible recruits.

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