STAR JOURNAL REPORT
Rhinelander High School senior girls swimmer Kiah Francis has made a verbal commitment to attend Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., next fall, RHS activities director Brian Paulson confirmed Wednesday.
Francis, who finished runner-up at state in Division 2 last season in both the 100-yard breaststroke and 200 individual medley, told Swimming World magazine she is “grateful and blessed to attend school at Liberty and swim with their hard-working, close-knit team.”
“Coach Jake (Shellenberger) and coach Jessica (Barnes) have built an incredibly successful and unique program with a bright future,” she said.
Liberty University, which has an NCAA Division I women’s swimming and diving team, finished runner-up last season in the Coastal Collegiate Sports Association. The school also plans to open a new 75,000-square-foot natatorium next year.
“We are all excited and relieved that Kiah has realized her dream of competing at the D1 level on (an) athletic scholarship,” said Hodags head swimming coach Lindsay Byrka. “Because there aren’t many opportunities to pursue professional swimming, this is the pinnacle of our sport for young swimmers. She received generous offers at all of her top schools, so she had several great options for extending and developing her academic and athletic future.”
Though Liberty University’s website for women’s swimming and diving linked to the Swimming World article in which Francis announced her verbal commitment to the school, assistant athletics communications director Joe Carmany said NCAA rules prohibit institutions from publicizing incoming student-athletes until they sign their National Letter of Intent, with the first day to sign this fall being Nov. 9.
“Between Nov. 9-16 is when incoming student-athletes can sign and return NLI’s,” Carmany said. “At that time, we would be able to publicize their signing.”
Byrka and Paulson both noted a formal signing ceremony for Francis is being planned at RHS for sometime in November.