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Swimming and Diving Signs Ten for Class of 2018

Chris Heigle
Chris Heigle
Communications Student Assistant

BATON ROUGE – The LSU swimming and Diving team’s co-head coaches Dave Geyer and Doug Shaffer announced the signing of ten student-athletes for the Class of 2018. The class includes 5 male swimmers, three female swimmers, and two female divers.

The Class of 2018 checks off all the boxes that the team needs to address in this class, especially with the men’s swim team.

“Our staff did a really good job at identifying events we wanted to focus in on recruiting and really filled some holes in our lineup,” Geyer noted. “We have the ability to go from the 50 to the 500, have the individual medley covered and then also backstroke and butterfly.   We’re excited to have these young men come to campus in the fall and be ready to move forward with our program.”

The class is highlighted by Thomas Roark, a native of Boise, Idaho, who is the top swimmer from Idaho and ranked 74th nationally according to collegeswimming.com. Roark is a freestyle specialist, and was on full display at the 2017 U.S. Summer Junior Nationals, placing 8th in the 100 free. Roark is also an Idaho state champion in both the 50 and 100 free, winning both in his junior season.

“We are really excited to have Thomas join the program,” said Geyer. “He was a main target for us through the whole recruiting process and all of our staff established a great relationship with him during that time.  We really expect him to come in and contribute at the SEC level in his individual events and relays right away.”

Michael Petro of Arlington Heights, Illinois, also performed well at his state championships, too. In his senior season, Petro finished second in both the 200 IM and 100 fly. Petro also qualified for the 2017 U.S. Summer Junior Nationals and is ranked third in Illinois and 97th nationally by collegeswimming.com.

“Michael is another one who established great relationships with our staff during the recruiting process,” said Geyer. “He had a great junior year with significant drops in his 200 IM and his 100 fly. He is also getting to the level where we look at him being able to compete in this tough conference.”

Gabe Parnell, who hails from Longwood, Florida, is ranked 11th in the state of Florida by collegeswimming.com. Specializing in the 200 and 400 IM, Parnell raced to a 9th overall finish in the 200 IM at the 2017 U.S. Summer Junior Nationals. As a result of his performance, Parnell is ranked 9th in the country by USA Swimming in the 200 IM among 17-18 year olds.

“Gabe had a really, in our minds, under-the-radar swim this summer at Junior Nationals in his 200 IM,” Geyer said. “We are looking to see his development this summer as he transitions into the yards pool.  The individual medley was definitely something we wanted to focus in on with recruiting and with him and Michael I am pleased with those pieces.”

One of Geyer’s main targets was to focus on the middle-distance freestyle races, and Davis Payne will look to fill that role. Payne, from Raleigh, North Carolina, has qualified for the 2017 U.S. Winter Junior Nationals.

“Davis saw great improvement in his middle distance freestyle events over the past year,” said Geyer. “Through our conversations with Coach Bruce Marchionda at TAC Titans we are looking for further development during this short-course season.   Davis will fill a nice gap in our 200 and 500 freestyle races immediately.”

Miguel Velasquez rounds out the group of male swimmers, and like his new teammates, Velasquez qualified for the 2017 U.S. Summer Junior Nationals. Velasquez comes from the prestigious Austin Swim Club, run by Olympian Brendan Hansen, and primarily swims the 100 fly and 100 back.

“Miguel comes from a great program run by Olympian Brendan Hansen in Austin and through our communication with him, we all feel Miguel is in for a great senior year,” said Geyer. “He had some great progression over his junior year and we are excited to see that upward trend for him.”

The women’s swimming class may only have three signees, but this class will be expected to come in and make a statement early on.

“In addition to what Coach Shaffer was able to sign on the diving side of things we know that we have some SEC points coming in and the potential to have some qualifiers at the NCAA level as well,” noted Geyer. “There were certainly some challenges this year with recruiting and only having one senior [Jane MacDougall], but the young women we have coming in are excited to be LSU Tigers and we look for them to come into the program and continue to show the progression they have made over the past couple of seasons.”

Brittany Thompson is the signee most familiar with the team, as she is the younger sister of junior Lauren Thompson. Specializing in backstroke and the IM, Brittany was a ‘B’ finalist at the 2016 Winter Nationals, and also went on to compete in the 2017 Summer Junior Nationals.

“We’ve been fortunate to have Brittany on our campus numerous times with her sister as a current junior on the roster,” said Geyer. “We were excited to have her also be interested in coming to LSU. We look forward to her adding to our backstroke depth and also help out in the individual medley and butterfly events." 

Allie McDaid, from East Windsor, New Jersey, hails from the prestigious Peddie Aquatic Association. McDaid, who is a breaststroke specialist, is a two-time New Jersey Senior Championship winner in the 100 breast, and was also a finalist in the 2017 Summer Junior Nationals. The sixth-ranked swimmer in New Jersey, according to collegeswimming.com, also holds the Peddie Aquatics record for 200 breast (long-course meters).

“Allie swims for a very strong program in New Jersey and we feel fortunate to get into that program and have one of their athletes attend LSU,” said Geyer. “She made some great adjustments to her training approach this summer and saw some great drops in her breaststroke events. We look for her to continue that path her senior year and come in ready to contribute immediately.”

Natalie Kucsan, like McDaid, is a top ten swimmer in her state as well. From New Market, Maryland, Kucsan is ranked eighth in the state of Maryland according to collegeswimming.com. Kucsan stood out at the 2017 Maryland Senior Championships, where she won the 100 free and finished in the top 6 in the 50 free, 100 fly, and 100 back.

“I was really excited to get Natalie’s commitment,” said Geyer. “Watching her race this summer and after speaking with her coach, I feel there is a really positive trajectory for her swimming coming into college. We have been really good here at LSU taking athletes like Natalie to the next level of swimming where she can be a scorer at the SEC level.”

In the diving well, Shaffer focused on getting divers that excel on platform, and was able to get two divers with international experience.

“This is a great female diving class,” Shaffer explained. “Going into this year I identified platform diving as a need for our program. Jolie (Blodgett) and Anne (Tuxen) are both experienced in this and are accomplished springboard divers as well. They will bring immediate strength and depth to our program. I can’t wait to begin working with them!”

Jolie Blodgett of West Seneca, New York, and a member of the Ripfest Diving Club, is a rising star that has already shown what she is capable of in the national spotlight. At the 2017 USA Diving National Preliminary Championships she placed 13th, 16th and 22nd on the 1-meter, 3-meter and platform events respectively.

“Assertive, goal orientated, and motivated are all adjectives I’d use to describe Jolie,” said Shaffer. “Although she is somewhat new to the sport, her drive, dedication, focus and commitment are reflected in her results and steady improvement. She is a three-event diver with a passion for the platform event. On campus, it was obvious Jolie is a perfect fit for our program and I couldn’t be happier with her choice to attend LSU. I’m looking forward to working with her in the fall.”

Blodgett will be joined by Anne Tuxen, who hails from Stavanger, Norway. With over 60 Junior and Senior titles to her name, Anne is one of the most accomplished female divers in Norwegian history. Tuxen has also turned heads on the international stage. She was a finalist at the 2015 Senior European Championships in Rostock, Germany. Tuxen also finished third in the three-meter synchro event at the 2016 Junior European championships, and 11th at the Junior World Championships in Kazan, Russia.

“I am thrilled Anne chose LSU for her future,” said Shaffer. “She will make an immediate impact on our program particularly in the platform event. Locally and nationally she has set the standard in Norway and has proven herself on the international stage. Anne is hardworking and dedicated, and has a very bright future ahead of her. From our first contact in the recruiting process, I felt a great connection. That connection was solidified on her visit and I couldn’t be happier with her decision to become a LSU Tiger.”

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