Lauren Costella, Tara Theilemann and Justin Barber are all Academic All-Americans who are also versatile swimmers.
So it figures that all three were recruited heavily by major colleges. The three Carson High seniors who also swim for the Carson Tigersharks ended the recruiting process this week by signing letters of intent.
Costella signed with Stanford, Theilemann signed with Alabama and Barber signed with Notre Dame. All three were honored this year by U.S. Swimming as Academic All-Americans. Costella, with a perfect score, was honored as the top female scholastic swimmer by U.S. Swimming.
Tigershark coach Jim Puleo said the three versatile swimmers had the qualities that are valued by colleges.
"It's not their athleticism, but their scholarship," said Puleo about why the three swimmers were so heavily recruited.
Costella is a two-time national champion in the 1,500-meter freestyle. She has also qualified for the Olympic trials in the 400 and 800 freestyles and the 400 individual medley. Puleo said he expects Costella to qualify for the Olympic trials in the 200 butterfly as well in next month's U.S. Open in Minneapolis.
Stanford beat out the other four finalists in Florida, Auburn, Michigan and Virginia with Costella. Stanford finished second in last year's NCAA Championships, losing to Auburn by 1.5 points.
"The goal is to definitely win it," said Costella about the team national title. "That was definitely a factor in deciding schools also."
Stanford being close to home was another factor, Costella said. "I think it was definitely a positive factor in chossing a school," she said. "It's nice to know that I can make a weekend trip home."
At Stanford, Costella will swim the 500 and 1,650-yard freestyles, the 200 fly and the 400 I.M. She said her goal is the win the NCAA title in the 1,650 free as a freshman.
"I would definitely like to win it in the mile and over the next few years, win it in other events," she said.
The ulitimate would be to win the maximum of three individual events at the NCAA Championships before her career is over. "That is certainly a goal," she said.
Signing with Stanford also clears the way for Costella to compete in the 2003 World University Games to be held next summer in Korea.
Barber was also recruited by Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Missouri, but the mystique and campus of Notre Dame won him over. "It's Notre Dame,' Barber said. "The name. I just loved it."
In his first year, Barber will walk on, with the chance to receive financial help from Notre Dame if he does well enough his freshman year.
"I feel real confident that I will be able to do well and prove myself and be a valuable member of the team," Barber said.
He will swim in the distance events and possibly the 200 fly. Barber said his goal is to qualify for the NCAA meet as a freshman.
Theilemann would also like to finish high in the NCAA meet as a freshman with Alabama, another top 10 program. Theilemann qualified for the national championships this past summer in the 200 free. She will swim the 100 and 200 free and possibly the 500 free at Alabama.
Arizona, Arizona State and Miami was also considered by Theilemann.
"Just to make it to college and just get a good offer, it's what I always wanted to do," Theilemann said.
Puleo said Theilemann is such a valuable swimmer because she provides strength in the relays, Puleo said.
Costella's versatility is also a strength, Puleo said. "If Laura was just a miler, we wouldn't have these opportunities," he said.
Barber's strength is his leadership, Puleo said. "It's his leadership in the water and on the deck," Puleo said.
Puleo said he was happy to see all three sign early. "It just lessens up a lot of things for these guys," he said. "There was just so much pressure on them."
"I can concentrate more on swimming and school," Costella said. "I just feel like a huge weight has been lifted."