Natalie Johnson of Cedarburg, Wis., Nick Menninga of Madison, Wis., Emily Roche of Fargo, North Dakota, Kiersten Seidel of Mapleton, Ill., John "Max" Ward of Des Moines, Iowa, and Kristin Zablocki of De Pere, Wis., have all signed National Letters of Intent to join the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee men's and women's swimming and diving program, head coach Kyle Clements announced this week.
"I am pleased to announce Milwaukee's 2012-2013 early signing class," Clements said. "These six individuals have all had amazing high school and club careers that have prepared them for the collegiate level. This might also be one of the most versatile groups of young swimmers ever to enroll at UWM. Each one of them can swim and score in multiple events, and that quality is one that this program thrives on. Each one these athletes brings something unique to our team, but all have the same goal to get better and help the team improve."
Johnson had an outstanding high school career, swimming at the Wisconsin state meet all four years and is currently ranked as the fifth-best swimmer in Wisconsin, according to CollegeSwimming.com. She won a state title in the 500 free as a junior and competed 13 times at the state meet in her four years.
"I am so pleased and excited to welcome Natalie to the Milwaukee family," Clements said. "She is going to be a great addition to our program. She is an outstanding student, swimmer, and person that will come into this team and help make everyone around her better. Natalie is one of the most versatile swimmers in the state and can swim any number of events at a very high level, and that's only going to make our team better. I am looking forward to getting her on campus."
Menninga is a senior standout from Madison Memorial, where he has helped the Spartans to two-straight team state titles in his first three years. As a junior, Menninga finished third in the 100 freestyle, fourth in the 50 free and was a part of both the 200 and 400 free relays that shattered the previous state records, passing both top times by more than a full second.
"Nick was a very important addition to our men's team," Clements said. "This young man has all the physical attributes that a coach is looking for. He is a big, strong kid that is going to take off in our sprint program. He is going to come in and join a young group of Milwaukee sprinters that are getting better everyday. We can not wait to get him into our weight and swim program and see him take off in the pool."
Roche joins the Panthers after four dominating years at Fargo North High School, helping the Spartans to their first team title since 1977. As a senior, Roche won state titles in the 50 and 100 freestyle, helped set a new state record in the 400 free relay and was named Senior Athlete of the Year. She owns school records in both the 50 free and 100 fly, and competed in four events at the state meet every year.
"Milwaukee is very fortunate to have Emily as a member of the program," Clements said. "Once we met this young lady, we knew that she was a Panther. She has all the physical, mental and personality attributes that we value as a program. She is coming off an outstanding state meet, and we know that she is only going to get better as she goes. Her future and our team's future is very bright with this young woman on our roster."
Seidel capped a solid four-year campaign at Peoria Notre Dame High School with back-to-back strong showings at the Illinois state championships. As a junior, she won a sectional crown in the 100 backstroke and finished runner-up in the 200 IM. Then, this year, Seidel won the 200 IM title at sectionals and came in just second in the 100 back.
"Kiersten is such a great pick up for our school and program, and we are so pleased that she chose to join us," Clements said. "She is one that is only going to get better in our program. She swims a number of different events and that is going to make us a deeper and better team. As this team keeps evolving and moving towards the future, young swimmers like Kiersten are going to play a very big role."
Ward enters his senior year as the eighth-ranked swimmer in the state of Iowa, according to CollegeSwimming.com. He already has a state title under his belt in the 100 butterfly, winning the event last year in 50.75 seconds, nearly two seconds ahead of second place. He also came in 12th in the 200 IM and competed in both the 200 and 400 free relay.
"Max is one of our most important commitments of the first semester," Clements said. "His skill set and events are ones that we were looking to fill. As a program, we are always trying to move forward and make ourselves better. With Max on the roster we are a better team. We are looking forward to having him in the pool and improving and fine tuning those events."
Zablocki finished her senior year as one of the top swimmers in the state of Wisconsin. She won her sectional in the 200 IM and was fifth at the state championships. She also competed in the 100 back and the 200 free relay at the state meet this year and swam a total of nine times in five events at state in her final three years.
"We can not wait to get this young lady on campus. Kristin is going to play such a major role over the next fours years on this team," Clements said. "We will be able to put her in almost any event and know that we are going to get a high quality swim. Kristin, her high school coach and club coach have done an amazing job getting her ready for college swimming. Once we get her into a full time weight, dryland and college program, we feel that this young lady is going to take off and be athlete that the rest of the conference will have to take note of."