DENTON, Texas- The 11th
ranked Mean Green (CollegeSwimming.com) landed five early swimming commits for the 2012 class through the rigorous recruiting efforts of Coach Joe Dykstra and his staff. North Texas remained true to its roots, signing four native Texans and another from Ontario, extending the Mean Green presence all the way up to Canada.
"I am thrilled that we were able to sign these five outstanding student-athletes during the fall recruiting period," said Dykstra. "In the pool, they will become immediate contributors for us. They all fit the mold of swimmers we target, in that they are impressive all-around athletes and are on a track to do their best swimming as they get further along in their careers. Academically, all five of them are near the very top of their high school classes, have achieved outstanding scores on their standardized tests, and will keep our program in the upper echelon of Division I Swim & Dive Team GPA's nationally."
Michelle Balcaen, from Beaver Brae Secondary School in Kenora, Ontario, Canada, awaits her chance to make an immediate impact for North Texas in the sprint free and butterfly. She was awarded the honor of team captain from 2009-2011 for the Kenora Swimming Sharks Swim Club, coached by Edie Fisher. At the 2010 Ontario Summer Games, she was a double gold medal winner in the 50 meter free and 100 meter free, and double silver medal winner in the 100 meter fly and 400 medley relay. In 2007, Balcaen was named the Kenora Junior Athlete of the Year. She had the third fastest 50 meter time for 16 year old girls in Canada. As a 15 year old, Balcaen was named as a Canadian Senior National Swim Championship Qualifier. She was earned as spot as a Canadian Age Group National Swim Championship Qualifier at the mere age of 12. Academically, Balcaen was named an Ontario High School Honors Student in her freshman, sophomore, and junior years.
Coach Dykstra: "Michelle will be one of our top sprinters from day one next fall and will help form the foundation of our relays during her career here. With her developing talent in events outside of the sprint free and becoming a great butterfly sprinter, she will contribute immediately as a freshman."
Mackenzie Childs is a sprinter from Magnolia, Texas, and has lettered each year during her high school career. As a 2010 State Champion in the 100 meter free and having a top career time of 51.92, Childs would currently hold the fastest time on this season's swim team if she were already enrolled at North Texas. She also holds competitive times in the 50 free, 200 free, 100 back, and 100 fly. Childs has also been named a Junior National Qualifier and awarded a spot on the National Team. She is coached by Randee Billips at Magnolia High School and Coach Terry Jones at the Magnolia Aquatics Club. Academically, Mackenzie Childs has been named a Scholastic All-American and been a member of the National Honor Society in 2010 and 2011.
Coach Dykstra: "Mackenzie will be another top sprinter that will also contribute from day one and will help build the foundation of our freestyle relays. Even as a sprinter, she shows tremendous development as a backstroker."
Gaby Colunga is a multi-sport athlete from Brandeis High school in San Antonio, Texas. Throughout her high school career, Colunga has lettered all four years in swimming and water polo. She demonstrates the future leadership that she'll bring to North Texas by being named Captain of the girl's swimming and water polo team all four years. Colunga has won the Braneis Leadership Award from 2009-11. She was named to the swimming All-State Team in 2010-11 and awarded team Most Valuable Player for the 2008-2009 season. In water polo, she made Second-Team All-Region in 2011. She is coached by Stephanie Dever at Brandies High School and Coach Bill Thomas at Alamo Area Aquatics. Academically, Colunga earned the title USA Swimming Scholastic All-American for 2010-2011 and is a member of the National Honor Society.
Coach Dykstra: "Gaby will come in and compete to one of our top butterfly swimmers next year, and I think she has some potential for further development in the IM races as well."
Zoe James signed to North Texas as a student coming out of Austin, Texas. James was a USA Sectionals Qualifier in the 100 back, 200 back, 50 free, and 200 IM. As a member of Nitro Swimming, coached by Rebecca Orr, James' dedication and work ethic won her the Commitment Award in 2011 and the Hardest Worker Award in 2010. Her hard work in the pool carries over to the books as James is a member of the Omicron Iota Chapter of Era Sigma Alpha Homeschool Honor Society.
Coach Dykstra: "Zoe is going to add needed depth to our group of backstrokers going forward."
Ashley Payne, a native of El Paso, Texas, has lettered in swimming all four years at Coronado High School and was coached by Mark Levitt. She was nominated to All-District and All-Region in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Payne was also named 2011 District 1-5A Female Swimmer of the Meet and titled Texas 5-A All-State Honorable Mention in 2009-11. She was also named the High School Most Valuable Player Award in 2011, and El Paso Times nominated her to the All-City Swimmers team in 2009-11. In the 200 Medley Relay, Payne broke an 18 year old school record in 2011 with a time of 2:09.83 and also helped set a new district record. As a member of the El Paso Aqua Posse club coached by Jack White, she received the Leo Cancellare Award for Outstanding Female Swimmer (2010, 2011) and the Nadera Mehl Award for Outstanding Age Group Swimmer (2009). Outside of the pool, Payne serves on the Board of Directors as an Athlete Representative and is a Texas Swimming Association Athlete Representative. Academically, she was named to the 2011 USA Swimming Scholastic All-American Team, has made the Honor roll all four years, is a member of the National Honor Society, and ranks in the top 12% of her graduating class.
Coach Dykstra: "Ashley will be a tremendous asset going forward as she continues to improve in the IM, breast, and fly events. She is the type of swimmer that you can utilize almost anywhere in a dual meet line-up and the value of that can't be understated."
The five early commits bring a lot of skill and success to the pool and are expected to have a positive impact for North Texas during the 2012-13 season. The Mean Green awaits their high school graduation, ready to get these fish in the water.