Palo Alto's Zhao commits to Stanford's women's swimming program


In less than a month, high school recruits can officially start signing national letters-of-intent. If you follow the Stanford women's swimming and diving team, you're in paradise after four Top-20 recruits verbally committed to the swim team during a 24-hour period, including Palo Alto's Grace Zhao, rated as the No. 10 recruit in the nation.

The Cardinal women's basketball team and men's swimming and diving team also got a boost when athletics committed within the last week.

Zhao, who holds three school records, would have qualified for the NCAA Division I championships last year in the 100 breast.

Zhao's Palo Alto record in the event is 1:00.96. She also shares the 200 medley relay record, a 1:42.41 at last year's state finals, and the 200 free relay (1:33.80, 2015).

Stanford finished second in the NCAA championships last year, behind Georgia. That was without Olympic gold medalists Simone Manuel and Katie Ledecky, who took the year off to prepare for the Rio Olympics.

The Cardinal will be favored to win its first national title since 1998, and its ninth overall. Stanford has been the runner-up four times since 1999, coming closest in 2010 when Florida won it on the final event.

Joining Zhao, who was the first of the four to announce her commitment, are No. 4 Brooke Forde, No. 8 Hannah Kukurugya and No. 12 Ashley Volpenhein.

Zhao made her announcement on Instagram, while the other three announced their decisions on Twitter.

Volpenhein wrote "So excited to announce my commitment to swim at Stanford! I can't wait to be a part of such amazing athletics and academics! Go card!!"

Forde announced her decision by writing "So excited to announce my commitment to swim for Stanford University! I can't wait to be a tree!"

Kukurugya wrote: "Excited to announce my verbal commitment to Stanford! I can't wait to further my education and swimming career on the Farm. Go Trees!"

Sprinter Alberto Mestre is the latest to commit on the men's side, joining highly-regarded Brennan Pastorek, Glen Cowand and Matthew Hirschberger.

"During my visit I realized that Stanford was the place of best fit for me," Mestre told "The academics, team, facilities, campus and coaching staff make Stanford unique. I am honored to become part of this team next year. Looking forward for what my future at Stanford holds."

In women's basketball, Canadian national team member Alyssa Jerome became the latest commit, joining Top-10 recruit Kiana Williams.

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