UA freshmen swimmers adjust to collegiate competition
Tyler Besh / Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA swimmer Bonnie Brandon
After Arizona’s swimming program went undefeated in dual matches and produced 14 individual and three relay championships, head coach Eric Hansen looked to capitalize on that success and add more depth to the women’s swim team.
Hansen managed to pull in the No. 1 recruit in the nation — Bonnie Brandon — along with Emma Schoettmer and Leticia Lelli.
“It’s amazing,” Schoettmer said. “I love all of my teammates and we all get along really well. It’s like a family, and it’s a really nice environment to be a part of.”
Hansen said he has been impressed with the class so far.
“I think they have all adjusted really well,” Hansen said. “They have been contributors already and it really seems that they feel at home here. They have been having a lot of fun. It’s all about what we do as a team, and they are an integral part of that. I expect them to contribute in any way possible.”
As a child, Schoettmer’s mother signed her up for swimming lessons because she had “too much energy,” she said.
She swam for Center Grove High School in Greenwood, Ind., where she became a state champion in the 100 breaststroke while subsequently earning All-State honors from 2009-12.
“I have changed my stroke a little bit,” Schoettmer said. “I’ve made a lot of little changes in the time I’ve been here and I believe that [the coaches] have helped me.”
At the age of 14, Brandon made her first Olympic Trials cut.
“It was so great to know that I could go to trials as a 14-year-old,” Brandon said.
Brandon swam for Cherry Creek High School in Centennial, Colo., where she was a four-time All-American and MVP.
“It felt good,” Brandon said. “Four is a lot, and it is definitely an accomplishment. I am very proud to have won those honors.”
She holds a state record in the 100 freestyle and was state champion in the 200 individual medley and 500 freestyle. She also swam for Mission Aurora Colorado Swimming.
“She was the best high school swimmer to come out of the state of Colorado,” MACS head coach Andy Niemann said. “Bonnie was always focused and a very diligent worker. She’s always wanted to compete, and has the true desire to race.”
Brandon said the family atmosphere and seasoned coaching staff at Arizona was what led her to the UA.
“I loved the feeling I got here when I came to visit,” Brandon said. “The energy was perfect and the combined men’s and women’s team was exactly what I was looking for.”
This year, Brandon said she wants to improve on her 200 and 400 intermediate medley times as well as her time in the 200 freestyle.
“College swimming has definitely been different,” Brandon said.
“I’ve had to get used to this training. Coming from a distance background, this kind of training is new to me. I have been going through an adaptation period and getting used to everything. I enjoy it.”
Lelli swam for Chaparral High School in Phoenix where she was presented with All-State honors three times. She subsequently was honored as an All-American during her junior year.
“It was really cool,” Lelli said. “I felt really proud of myself and was very happy with my hard work.”
Lelli competed as a semifinalist during the Canadian Olympic Trials this past year.
“Adjusting was hard at first,” Lelli said. “It has gotten easier and I have gotten used to putting this amount of work in. It feels nice to be here with my other teammates and I can’t wait to continue competing.”