Stone Ridge junior, Olympic gold medalist and four-time world champion Katie Ledecky orally committed Thursday to swim for Stanford.
“Stanford has always stood out to me. It has great swimming, great academics and great people,” the two-time All-Met Swimmer of the Year said. “What Stanford has been able to accomplish in the last two seasons has been incredible. And talking with Coach [Greg] Meehan about his season plan and the direction of the program made me believe that Stanford was the place for me.”
Ledecky ended any debate whether she would keep her amateur status leading up to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro or turn professional. She posted a picture on Twitter of herself with a big smile, pulling on a Stanford hat while sporting a Cardinal red sweatshirt Thursday morning.
The earliest Ledecky can sign a national letter-of-intent is Nov. 13.
Ledecky, 17, burst onto the international scene in 2012 when she won the 800-meter freestyle at the London Olympic Games. She followed up her international debut with world records in the 800 and 1,500 at the world championships in Barcelona the next summer on her way to four world titles. She holds five American records, six national age group records and two national high school records.
Ledecky opted to follow a similar path as fellow 2012 Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin in foregoing opportunities as a professional swimmer to participate in college swimming. Franklin helped California to a third-place finish at the NCAAs and set the NCAA record in the 200 freestyle in March.
However, the two Olympians will most likely never meet in the collegiate pool. Franklin has stated since her own commitment that she will only swim two years at the college level before turning pro ahead of the Rio Olympic Games.
Ledecky said she has not decided when she will enroll at Stanford. With one year left at Stone Ridge, she could defer enrollment for a year to remain in the area during her training for the 2016 Olympics. Once at Stanford, Ledecky said she plans to use her full four years of eligibility in the college pool.
There was speculation Ledecky would follow Franklin to Berkeley to train with her U.S. teammate under her former coach, Yuri Suguiyama, and Cal Coach Teri McKeever, who was the head coach of the U.S. women’s team in London. Suguiyama left Nation’s Capital to become a men’s assistant coach at Cal in 2012.
Stanford, which finished second at this year’s NCAA Division I championship meet behind Georgia, was already poised to make a run at the NCAA title in the immediate future. At Stanford, Meehan has added a wealth of talent in his first two seasons, including U.S. national team member Simone Manuel and Oakton’s Janet Hu, the 2011-12 All-Met Swimmer of the Year. Manuel is the American record holder in the 100-yard freestyle and the national record holder in the 50 and 100 freestyle in the 15-16 and 17-18 age groups. Hu, whose record Manuel broke in the 17-18 50 free, was an eight-time Virginia state champion and 27-time all-American for Oakton. Sarah Haase, the 2010-11 All-Met Swimmer of the Year, is finishing her sophomore year at Stanford.
Lia Neal, Ledecky’s roommate during the London Olympics, is already a freshman at Stanford.
Ledecky said she “tried to separate” her decision despite knowing she had friends already headed to Stanford. “But that was always in the back of my mind,” she said. “I love Stanford all the way. It’s a bonus I get to go with some of my best friends.”
American distance swimming legend Janet Evans also attended Stanford from 1989 to 1991 after winning three gold medals at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul as a 17-year-old high school senior. Ledecky won her first gold following her freshman year at Stone Ridge at age 15.