June 12, 2013
Three more swimmers have signed with Rice and are scheduled to join the Owls for the 2013-14 season, head swim coach Seth Huston announced.
The newest Owls are Anniina Ala-Seppälä, an international standout from Finland, Catherine Levins of Mercersburg, Pa., and Denver native Shelly Patton, who joins Rice as a sophomore transfer from Northwestern University in Chicago. After adding another talented signing class to last year's squad that won the 2013 Conference USA Swimming & Diving Championship, Rice's second league title in the three years, coach Huston likes the direction the program is headed.
"We are really excited about this group and what they will offer our team for the next few years," coach Huston said. "One thing that stands out among this class is they are competitors. Many of the conversations with the student-athletes and their coaches gravitated towards being excited to race and take on challenges. A competitive mindset is necessary, and can go a long way at this level.
"I feel like this incoming class just fits in so well with the current team, and our program's culture," coach Huston added. "I am really looking forward to this upcoming year."
The three new additions brings Rice's total incoming class to five. The Owls' first two signees, Lauren FitzGerald of Folsom, Calif., and Marita Sailor of Portland, Ore., were in November of 2012. More detailed highlights on the latest signees are provided below.
Rice Swimming Signee Highlights (Spring, 2013)
Anniina Ala-Seppälä * distance freestyle
Helsinki, Finland (Lahden Uimaseura / Wildcats Aquatics)
* 1,500 freestyle 16:48.63 SCM (17:01.74 conversion)
* 800 freestyle 8:46.76 SCM (10:07.35 conversion)
* 400 freestyle 4:14.20 SCM (4:53.09 conversion)
* Youth Nordic Champion in 400-meters
* Swam for Finland in Youth Olympic Festival and Youth European Championships
* Coached by Ben Davis (one year of high school in Lexington, KY)
* Coached by Ari Palve (club)
Coach Huston said: "Anniina will really fill a hole left by (2013 graduate) Danielle Spence in our distance events. I expect Anniina to be very competitive in training and competing as a part of our one-two punch in the distance events with teammate Erin Flanigan. Anniina's experience in international competitions will serve her well at the NCAA Division I level."
Anniina Ala-Seppälä said: "I got along with the coaches and the team extremely well from the first time we talked. I instantly felt like I was a part of the team. I also knew Rice University to be a great school academically; even very well known in Finland. This is important to me. The beautiful campus and warm climate were also tempting to me."
Catherine Levins * breaststroke/individual medley
Mercersburg, PA (Mercersburg Academy / Burlington County YMCA Hurricanes)
* 100 breaststroke 1:04.33;
* 200 breaststroke 2:19.64;
* 200 IM 2:11.87;
* Coached by Pete Williams (club)
* Coached by Emily Kennedy (HS)
* Two-time YMCA National qualifier;
Coach Huston said: "Catherine is a diamond in the rough. Her prep school coach, Pete Williams, told me that Catherine has so much upside and that she is very coachable. Like many of our breaststroke specialists at Rice, I think Catherine's best days in the pool are ahead of her."
Catherine Levins said: "I fell in love with the school and the team within my first hour on campus. The team was so out-going and coach Seth and Amanda answered all my questions and made me feel right at home. The school has amazing academic and is a gorgeous campus. After visiting, I could not picture myself spending my next four years anywhere else but Rice."
Shelly Patton * individual medley / 200freestyle
Denver, Col. (Northwestern Univ. / Heritage HS / Denver Hilltoppers Swim Club.)
* 200 IM 2:02.48;
* 400 IM 4:18.08;
* 200 backstroke 1:59.54;
* 100 breaststroke 1:03.59;
* Big Ten Freshman of the Week (Nov. 20, 2012);
* Coached by Shawn Smith (club)
* Coached by Tom Byorick (HS)
Coach Huston said: "Shelly got away from us last year, but we are happy that she reconsidered her decision and will be transferring to Rice this fall. She is incredibly versatile and will be able to swim where we need her most. Her greatest attribute is her desire and will to be the absolute best she can be. Shelly will achieve great things at Rice."
Shelly Patton said: "The size of the school is just what I wanted, as is the quality of the teachers and the friendly atmosphere. The climate in the winter is a definite perk, but what really made me choose Rice was the coaching staff that really gets me, and the unique closeness of the team. The girls are crazy-amazing, and I can't wait to be an Owl!"