One of four Tennessee natives in the class of 2010, Zach Burnett joins the Vols’ roster from nearby Sevierville. UT head coach John Trembley sees something familiar in Burnett.
“He has a great heart and reminds us a lot of Leif Engtrom-Heig, one of our all-time greatest breaststrokers,” Trembley said. “We are excited to see him develop in our program.”
Burnett finished third in the 100 breaststroke and 13th in the 50 freestyle at the Tennessee state championships. He owns a 56.30-second time in the 100 breaststroke. He swam for former Vol and interim head coach Stephen Fortney at Sevierville High School.
“Coach Joe Hendee watched Zach very carefully at the Tennessee state meet,” Trembley said. “He did well and we are excited to get him here and start training.”
One of three Knoxville-area signees for Tennessee, James Dail joins one of the nation’s top diving lineups. The Bearden High School graduate joins the Vols as one of the most highly touted diving recruits in the country.
“We are very excited to have James join our program,” diving coach Dave Parrington said. “We think he is one of the best young divers in America and he will contribute greatly at Tennessee.”
According to Trembley, Dail’s most significant impact will come in the platform diving events. With strong performers on the one- and three-meter springboards, Dail’s platform performances should be the perfect complement to the Vols’ diving lineup.
“On platform, he may be one of the best around,” Brian Pritt, Dail’s club coach, said. “He is a hard worker and I think the tower will definitely be his best event. He should make an immediate impact.”
Dail claimed some hardware at the Tennessee state swimming and diving championships this spring, winning the one-meter state title with 485.00 points.
The Vols continue a rich history of European swimmers with the addition of Oystein Hetland, of Jar, Norway. A seasoned international competitor, Hetland also brings a wealth of potential to Knoxville.
“He is a tremendous freestyler and butterflyer and his excitement to be a Vol is awesome and we can’t wait to get him here,” Trembley said. “We have had Oystein on our radar since the summer and his progression has been spectacular.”
Hetland also comes from a strong gene pool. His older brother Alex earned All-America status as a captain at Southern Methodist in 2006. Oystein Hetland was a part of six relay teams that broke six Norwegian national junior records while swimming for Martin Lester Nielsen at the Norwegian College of Elite Sports. In 2010, Hetland swam a 45.31 second 100 freestyle and a 48.66 100 butterfly.
“Oystein comes from a great gene pool,” Trembley said. “No offense to his brother Alex, but we believe Oystein will be a better swimmer. Oystein comes in with maturity and international experience.”
Mid-year enrollee Clint Johnson is redshirting during 2010 but will be add depth to the Vols’ roster come January. The Loma Linda, Calif., native comes to The Hill with all the tangibles.
“Clint has lots of plusses: he is big and tall and strong—he looks like a swimmer,” Trembley said. “He is one of the hardest workers and one of the most devoted student-athletes we’ve ever had here.”
Johnson twice earned All-America status for coach Glen Perry at Yucaipa High School and was a California state champion in the 100 freestyle. He was also a member of a 200 freestyle relay team that set a national public high school record.
“I really loved Tennessee,” Johnson said. “I had a lot of fun on my recruiting trip and I really love being in the South. The UT program has some great traditions and I am looking forward to working hard and this opportunity.”
Perhaps the most accomplished member of Tennessee’s class of 2010 is Norbert Kovacs. In 2008, the Balatonfured, Hungary, native represented his country in the Beijing Olympics.
“Obviously, he has a great deal of international experience and he is one of our leaders in training,” Trembley said. “He could go down as one of our finest all-time.”
In Beijing, Kovacs placed 35th in the 200-meter freestyle and served as the anchor of the 800-meter freestyle relay that finished 13th. Kovacs boasts a one minute 33.59 seconds time in the 200 freestyle and a one minute 43.31 seconds time in the 200 butterfly.
“I came to Tennessee because I kept hearing how good the team is,” Kovacs said. “The coaches were another reason I came. Coach Trembley and Coach Hendee are both really good at what they do.”
One of two South American swimmers to join the Vols roster, Ramom Melo comes to The Hill from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“Ramom is arguably the finest 18-year-old sprinter in the world,” Trembley said. “He is young but tall and strong for his age. With the numbers he has put on the board already, we expect him to one of the best sprinters in college swimming.”
Melo boasts a 19.50-second 50 freestyle and a 43.80-second 100 freestyle and was coached by Marco Aragao at Clube de Regatas de Flamengo.
“Ramom is a very high profile young sprinter in Brazil,” Alex Pussieldi, coach of Davie Nadadores swim team said. “He is one of the top young sprinters coming up right now. I think he will be amazing at Tennessee.”
After redshirting the 2009-10 season, Sam Petersen will compete for the Vols in 2010-11 for the first time. The Short Hills, New Jersey certainly turned some heads in his first year on The Hill.
“Sam has a great aerobic capacity, which is a great upside for a middle and long distance swimmer,” Trembley said. “He is young and has great room to improve. We expect at some point in his career, Sam will compete at the NCAA championships.”
Perhaps his most impressive feat thus far came in the 2009 Orange and White meet. After a wrist injury put his arm in a cast, Petersen didn’t expect to swim in the intra-squad competition. But he did. He swam the 1650 yard freestyle—with one arm.
“I was planning on being a cheerleader but I ended up swimming the mile,” Petersen said. “I understood that I probably wasn’t going to score any points. I just went in there and swam it for my team.”
From Asuncion, Paraguay, Renato Prono joins the Big Orange. But he is no stranger to the rigorous competition of the SEC—his cousin Genaro is a junior swimmer at Auburn.
“At this stage of his career, we believe Renato is a little ahead of his brother and should be a tremendous addition to our breaststroke corps,” Trembley said. “We look forward to Renato reaching his full potential at Tennessee.”
Prono boasts a 54.01 second breaststroke and a 2:01.84 200 breaststroke. He will add to a strong Vol breaststroke group, which boasts the 2010 SEC 200 breaststroke champion.
After taking a year off after high school to train, the Vols welcome Samuel Rairden of Richmond, Va., to the Tennessee family.
“Sam is a breakout athlete—he had is first international competition this month in Ireland,” Trembley said. “He is a phenomenal in freestyle, backstroke and butterfly. He is awesome under water and will develop even better kick when he gets here.”
Rairden earned All-America status in both the 100 back and 100 fly at Maggie L. Walker High School. He also set a national age group record in the 200 medley relay.
“UT is a beautiful school with good academics and athletics,” Rairden said. “And I just felt at home with the team.”
The fourth Tennessee native in the 2010 class, Troy Tillman has all the tools to become one of Tennessee’s all-time best.
“At 6-foot-5-inches, Troy is the biggest and strongest of our incoming class,” Trembley said. “He has great endurance and speed. We are excited about what he can do at Tennessee.”
Tillman earned All-America status in 2010, winning both the 50 and 100 freestyle at the Tennessee state meet as a member of the swim team at Notre Dame High School in Chattanooga. He also holds the Southern Zone meet records in the same events. Tillman was coached by Dan Flack at Baylor Swim Club and his mother, Dale, is the head coach at Notre Dame High School.
“I loved the coaching at Tennessee and the team was awesome,” Tillman said. “It felt like home on my visit. I used to tell my mom, `One day I want to swim here.’ This is a dream come true.”
Christoffer Wallin becomes the second Swedish native on the Vols’ 2010-11 roster. The Helsingborg, Sweden, native joins the Big Orange as the Swedish record holder in the 400 I.M.
“Christoffer is a great trainer and he has a great understanding of all four strokes,” Trembley said. “He is excited to join us. He has great international and NCAA goals and we expect him to realize those here.”
Wallin boasts plenty of international competitive experience. He went to the European Short Course Championships in 2009, and the European Junior Championships in 2007 and 2008. Wallin owns eight Swedish championships gold medals and six Swedish junior records.
“He has a great training background with one of the finest coaches in European swimming,” Trembley said. “We are looking forward to his bright career at Tennessee.”
A second generation Vol, Alex Ward comes to UT as one of the nation’s highest touted recruits. The Knoxville native graduated from Webb School and will join the Vols for summer workouts.
“Alex is an underwater-kicking machine, which is important in short-course racing,” Trembley said. “He is excellent in the I.M. and the butterfly."
After visiting a handful of schools from around the country, Tennessee stood out as just what he needed. Ward attends Webb School of Knoxville and was coached by former Tennessee swimmer Jim Rumbaugh at Pilot Aquatics.
“When it came right down to it, UT was just the best fit for me,” Ward said. “The atmosphere was amazing. I felt really comfortable here and having my family here to support me is a really great thing.”
Ward finished third in the 100 butterfly at the Tennessee state championships and competed in the final of the 400 I.M. at USA Swimming Junior Nationals.