In collegiate sports, transferring to a different school can provide student-athletes with a clean slate and a new environment. This year, Arizona’s men and women’s swim teams welcomed four transfer athletes from three Florida colleges: juniors Elizabeth Pepper from Florida State, Lauren Neidigh and Austin Ringquist from the University of Florida and Brad Tandy from Indian River State College.
“It seems like [transferring] is becoming more ingrained in the culture of collegiate athletics,” head coach Eric Hansen said.
“I think this sport is so demanding that if you’re not happy, it’s really tough. I think we’ve got a really good fit with our kids and our staff and I think everyone is pretty happy. We are training hard.”
During her two years at FSU, Pepper qualified twice for the NCAA Championships and remains the current school record holder in the 200m-butterfly. She also excels in mid-distance freestyle events and will be expected to provide a strong butterfly section for the Wildcats’ medley relay team.
Neidigh announced her decision in late May and trained at the Bolles School in Florida to get back in shape for the upcoming season before competing in the U.S. Open at the end of the summer.
The Orange Park, Fla., native was a 200y-butterfly specialist coming out of high school, but was utilized primarily in 500m-freestyle and 400m-IM races during her two years as a Gator.
Neidigh showed improvement at Florida, going from 4:51 to 4:48 in the 500m-freestyle event and dropping six seconds (4:22 to 4:16) in the 400m-IM. She said that she hopes to continue improving here and is eager to help the UA achieve.
“I definitely see the program going far this year,” Neidigh said. “We were top five in NCAAs last year and I believe we can do that again. I just want to make sure I’m helping out and contributing in any way I can.”
Connection to coaches and teammates is vital to transfer students.
“Arizona’s professional coaching staff and dedicated teammates were really appealing to me,” Ringquist said. “I feel more comfortable here and am looking forward to having a productive year.”
Ringquist qualified for the Olympic Trials in the 200m-IM and 200m backstroke events and said he is excited for this year’s upcoming competition. When asked about why he chose the UA, Tandy, a native of South Africa, said that something about it just felt right.
“Something stuck out here,” Tandy explained. “I like the South African background and that they always have a strong group of passionate swimmers. Personally, my goal is to place at NCAAs in the 50 and 100m-freestyle races. I’m also really excited about our relays. We have a very strong group this year.”
Tandy was the fastest sprinter out of the junior college level and expects to provide a major boost to Arizona’s relay and freestyle groups.
“As newcomers, we enter the program with loads of energy and enthusiasm,” Tandy said. “We are excited to win and do well. That [energy], along with talent and technique [from new transfers], creates a solid and balanced team.”
— Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17