LAS CRUCES, N.M. (May 7)-New Mexico State swimming and diving head coach Rick Pratt has signed Jona Helena Bjarnadottir, Mariah Morrell, Chelsey Reber, Audrey Ruiz and Cassandra Rupp to National Letters of Intent to join the Aggies in 2012-13.
The four swimmers and a diver join fall signees Nicole Brennecke, Moranda Madero, Emily Nightingale, Lauren Reifel and MacKenzie Soper in the Class of 2012.
"With those already committed in the fall, this will be a very large freshman class and one that is going to bring a lot of excitement to the deck," Pratt said. "With a full complement of divers and so many diverse swimmers, it is going to be a fun season. They are all great ladies, hard workers and are going to mold well into our already strong team culture."
Bjarnadottir joins the Aggies from Keflavik, Iceland, where she swims under head coach Anthony Kattan with the Sports Institute of Reykjanesbaer. She competes in the individual medley and distance free events. Last spring, Bjarnadottir was part of the Icelandic National team, which competed in the Small Nations Games. Her best times include 2:06.3 in the 200 IM, 4:23.9 in the 400 IM and 5:02.1 in the 500 free (converted from SCM).
"Jona came to us late in the process but after getting to know her, I am excited we found her and excited to have her here," Pratt said. "She is a little older than the average freshman as the typical high school student in Iceland graduates when they are 20. I think her maturity will help her adapt to life in the U.S. She is a tough swimmer and has great kick and form. She has much potential and is a very diverse swimmer, which will help us in the line-up in many ways."
Morrell, an Albuquerque, N.M. native, is a backstroke and butterfly specialist, who could also compete in the distance free events. Morrell's personal-best times include 56.4 in the 100 back, 2:00.4 in the 200 back and 57.8 in the 100 fly.
"Mariah visited NM State in the fall, and we are thrilled to have her stay in-state and attend NM State," he said. "She is probably the fastest in-state swimmer to attend NM State and is going to make an immediate impact. Mariah swims for Gordy Westerberg with the Vipers of Albuquerque Swim Team and has been set up for training at the highest level. She is a hard worker and someone who will bring another level of intensity to practices."
Reber arrives in Las Cruces from Ft. Wayne, Ind. and swims for coach Chad Englehart with SWAC. She competes in the sprint free and backstroke events. Reber's best times are 24.2 in the 50 free, 53.2 in the 100 free and 58.3 in the 100 back.
"At six feet tall, Chelsey is an impressive athlete with a lot of room for improvement," Pratt said. "She is a great person and student and is going to contribute on many levels to our program. She will help us a lot in the sprint freestyle events and will add depth in the backstroke as well. She has the potential and drive to compete at the highest level, and I am thrilled she has chosen NM State."
Ruiz, a diver, joins the Aggies from Lubbock, Texas. She has been diving for six years with the Lubbock Dive Club under coach Penny Dipomazio. She has competed in USA Diving Junior and Senior level meets and AAU National meets during her time with the club team. Ruiz concluded her high school career at Coronado High School and placed 11th on the 1-meter springboard at the Texas 5A Championships.
"I am excited to work with Audrey as she has a great personality and great work ethic," diving coach Molly Parker said. "Her experience with competing at the regional and national levels will help her succeed within the WAC. I believe Audrey has great potential to be a highly successful college diver. I expect her to learn some new dives throughout her freshman season, and I am excited to see her flourish within our program."
Rupp joins the Crimson and White from San Antonio, Texas. She swims for Alamo Area Aquatics with head coach Bill Thomas and specializes in the backstroke and IM events with the possibility of competing in the freestyle. Rupp's personal-best times are 58.7 in the 100 back, 2:06.1 in the 200 back and 2:08.1 in the 200 IM.
"Cassandra is going to make a huge impact on many levels for us and has the character to not only swim real fast, but will be a great teammate and student at NM State," Pratt said. "Cassandra is a great person and the kind of student-athlete that we love to have here."
The five spring signees join Soper, a Shawano, Wisc., native, who swims for Paul Villez with the Shawano Community Swim Club and specializes in the distance free and backstroke events. Soper's best times are 10:20.06 in the 1,000 free, 58.63 in the 100 back and 2:05.09 in the 200 back.
Hometown product, Madero joins the Aggies in the fall. The Las Cruces High School student has personal-best times of 1:54.06 in the 200 free, 5:09.11 in the 500 free and 58.21 in the 100 fly.
The Aggies have a pair of swimmers from Allen, Texas. Brennecke and Nightingale swim for coach Brent Mitchell with Metroplex Aquatics. Brennecke specializes in the distance freestyle events.
Brennecke's best times are 1:52.80 in the 200 free and 4:59.22 in the 500 free. Nightingale is a versatile swimmer with personal-best times of 4:55.53 in the 500 free and 4:26.81 in the 400 IM.
Reifel is a diver from Fortville, Ind., and she competes for the Starz Diving Club under coach Kevin Rockhill. She has been diving for three years after competing as a level 10 Elite Gymnast. Reifel qualified and competed on the platform at the USA Diving Age Group National Championships in summer 2011.