HOUSTON - The University of Houston Swimming & Diving program, coming off of its first ever American Athletic Conference Championship, announced an eight-member class – five swimmers and three divers – during the early signing period for the 2018-2019 season. Swimming & Diving Head Coach Ryan Wochomurka is proud to announce Kylie Andrews, Hayley Benjamin, Katie Deininger, Shayla Erickson, Hannah Esopenko, Rachel Hicks, Makayla Wallar, and Jaylynn Whitt have signed National Letters of Intent to join Houston in 2018.
“This is an amazingly diverse and talented group of young women,” said Wochomurka. “Not only are they great people and great students, they are all exceptional athletes. This is the group that will continue our pursuit of conference championships and chase our vision of being a Top 25 program. Recruiting Coordinator Hannah Burandt, and Coach Bob Gunter spent countless hours bringing this incredible group to Houston, and have laid the groundwork for an exciting future in the pool at Houston.”
Andrews comes to Houston by way of Littleton, Colo., where she races for the Foothills Swim Team, where she is a member of National Honor Society at Heritage High School. Andrews is a six-time All-American, two-time Colorado State Champion in the 100 Freestyle, and 2017 State Champion in the 100 Backstroke. The 3x Heritage High School MVP holds six school and four league records.
“Kylie is an extremely versatile athlete,” said Wochomurka. “She will have an immediate impact at the American level, and on our relays. More importantly it was apparent from the very first conversation that she fits our program on a multitude of different levels.”
ANDREWS TOP TIMES
50 Freestyle (Junior National) - 23.18
100 Freestyle (Junior National) - 49.92/ LCM (Winter National) - 57.40
200 Freestyle (Junior National) - 1:48.17/LCM (Junior National) - 2:05.26
50 Backstroke - 26.11
100 Backstroke - 55.32
200 Backstroke - 1:59.00
100 Butterfly - 54.78
Benjamin joins the Cougar after a stellar career at Animas High School in Durango, Colo. The distance specialist is an Olympic Trial Qualifier in the 800 LCM Freestyle. Benjamin is the 2017 Futures champion in the 1500 and holds the Colorado Mesa University Pool record in the 500 Freestyle. The Colorado native is a two-time Team Captain on the Durango Swim Club.
BENJAMIN’S TOP TIMES
1650 Freestyle: 16:41.91/1500 LCM 16:58.57 (US Open)
800 LCM Freestyle: 8:48.70 (Olympic Trials)
500 Freestyle: 4:55.20/400 Freestyle LCM: 4:18.85
400 IM: 4:22.91
200 Freestyle: 1:52.88
“I think Haley is just scratching the surface of her swimming, which is exciting when you see her best performances already,” said Wochomurka. “She will add to a deepening group of distance swimmers already here, and challenge them on a daily basis in training and racing situations.”
Deininger will join the Houston Swimming & Diving team after a promising career at Cactus Shadows High School. The Arizona native has competed on the national stage, qualifying in the 1-Meter and 3-Meter for the 2017 USA Diving Senior National Championships. Deininger competed at the 2017 USA Diving Junior National Championships in the 1-Meter and 3-Meter springboards, as well as the Platform event. There she qualified for the semi-finals in the 1-Meter competition. She is a two-time State Championship qualifier, winning in 2015 and was the 2015 Arizona Interscholastic Association Swimming & Diving Coaches Association and Arizona Aquatics Sports Foundation Girl’s Diver of the Year.
“We are so excited to bring Katie to Houston where her Platform experience will be an instant contribution to our team,” said Head Diving Coach Bob Gunter. “Her national level experience will allow her to grow quickly into a great collegiate athlete.”
DEININGER’S TOP SCORES
Platform 9 - 408.95
3-Meter - 438.90
1-Meter - 439.15
Erickson joins the Cougars by way of Fountain Valley, Calif., where she was a four-year member of the Fountain Valley High School Varsity Swim team. The California native is a two-time USA Swimming Scholastic All-American and NISCA/Speedo Girl’s High School Swimming All-American, and has competed nationally, earning a fourth-place finish at the 2017 Junior National Open Water Championships. Erickson made three appearances at the Sunset League Championships where she earned top honors in 2015 in the 100 Fly, as well as first-place in both the 200 and 500 Free this past season. The Freestyle specialist has also made three appearances at the CIF-SS Division 1 Finals. Erickson was named to the 2016 USA Swimming 15 Year Old Girl’s Top-20 list, as well as 14th in the 500 Free, 17th in the 1,000 Free, and 20th in the 1500 Free.
“Shayla comes well prepared from one of the premier club programs in the Country at Irvine NOVA,” said Wochomurka. “She has been well coached and challenged in her high school career, that experience will be a valuable asset for her and us. We are excited to help her flourish at the collegiate level.”
ERICKSON’S TOP TIMES
100 Butterfly – 55.65
200 Butterfly – 2.03.79
200 Freestyle – 1.49.16
500 Freestyle – 4.50.32
1000 Freestyle – 9:57.10
1500 Freestyle – 17.06.74
Esopenko will join the Cougar squad after a promising career in her home country of Canada. The sprinter is a 2016 Canadian Olympic Trial qualifier and four-year member of British Columbia’s Provincial Team. Esopenko represented her home country in the Western Canada Summer Games to go along with multiple appearances at Junior National and Senior National meets. In 2016, Esopenko was inducted to the Prince George Youth Hall of Fame and is a two-time nominee for the Pacific Sport Northern British Columbia Rising Star Award.
“We have had an excellent breaststroke and IM tradition begin to form over the past three years, and Hannah will bring some more firepower to that group,” said Wochomurka. “I was extremely impressed with her diligence and approach to finding the place where she could flourish for the next four years.”
ESOPENKO’S TOP TIMES
100 Breaststroke – (SCM 1:09.88) (LCM 1:11.88)
200 Breaststroke – (SCM 2:30.36) (LCM 2:35.28)
100 Butterfly - (SCM 1:02.01) (LCM 1:03.64)
200 Butterfly - (SCM 2:16.77) (LCM 2:20.95)
200 IM - (SCM 2:17.13) (LCM 2:22.82)
400 IM - (SCM 4:51.78) (LCM 5:04.02)
Hicks comes to Houston from Atascocita, Texas, where she is an All-American and NCSA Qualifier. The Texas native has qualified for the 6A State Championship four times, earning All-State accolades in the 200 Free and 500 Free. The Freestyle specialist holds a plethora of records at Atascocita High School, including records in the 200 Free, 500 Free, 100 Fly, 200 Medley Relay, 200 Free Relay, and 400 Relay.
“We love it when the best in Houston stay right here at home to represent their city and the State of Texas,” said Wochomurka. “Rachel fits our team culture to a T. She knows exactly what she wants and is persistent in her pursuit of it.”
HICKS’ TOP TIMES
50 Freestyle - 24.52
100 Freestyle - 52.76
200 Freestyle - 1:51.35
500 Freestyle - 4:59.28
100 Butterfly - 57.64
200 IM- 2:08.87
200 Backstroke - 2:07.97
400 IM - 4:32.04
Wallar comes to Houston from Edmond, Okla., with extensive experience competing on the national stage. In 2016 Makayla was a Qualifier to the AAU National Diving Championships on both the 1 and 3 meter springboards where she made it to the finals in the 3 meter competition. In 2017 she was the AAU RWB White South Champion in both the 1-Meter and 3-Meter. The Oklahoma native also was a semifinalist at the 2017 USD Junior National Championships on the three meter springboard.
“We are very privileged to have Makayla coming to Houston,” said Gunter. “She is an outstanding athlete with a great deal of success that will benefit our team tremendously. Being still somewhat new to the sport puts her in a great position to continue to improve on her already quick rise to the national stage.”
WALLAR’S TOP SCORES
3-Meter 9 Dive – 376.70
3-Meter 10 Dive – 394.30
1-Meter 10 Dive – 350.70
Whitt joins the Cougars after a stellar career at Hebron High School in The Colony, Texas. The diver is the record-holder at Hebron High School with an 11 Dive point total of 456.30, qualifying her for All-American consideration. Jaylynn is a two time USA Diving Junior Region 4 qualifier, as well a 2017 USD Senior Zone B qualifier where she was a finalist in the 3 meter event.
“Jaylynn will have an immediate impact on our team,” said Gunter. “Her springboard experience and her athletic ability will allow her to compete at a high level in our conference.”
WHITT’S TOP SCORES
High School Diving
Six Dives – 222.10
11 Dives – 456.30
1 meter 10 dives - 328.85
3 meter 10 dives - 325.25
Houston will return to action after the New Year, when it hosts Arkansas and Vanderbilt Jan. 9 at the CWRC.
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