Squalicum graduated senior Carlee Bock said she's always dreamt of swimming for a big NCAA Division I school, pretty much since she started swimming for the Bellingham Bay Swim Team 11 years ago.
But when the time came for her to make a decision about where she wanted to swim, the six-time Class 2A state champion realized that bigger wasn't necessarily better.
"K through eight, I went to a smaller school," Bock said in a phone interview. "I went to the Waldorf School, and I realized smaller was a better fit for me."
Fortunately, that didn't mean she had to give up her big dreams of swimming for a Division I school.
Bock has signed her National Letter of Intent to swim at Seattle University, which competes in the Western Athletic Conference and had a total undergraduate enrollment of 4,589 in 2012.
Bock said she chose the Redhawks over the University of Puget Sound and the University of Wyoming, though she also looked at Mesa (Colo.) College, the University of New Mexico and the University of Washington.
"Seattle just moved up to D-I a couple of years ago, so it's really exciting," Bock said. "I have a lot of friends that are swimming in the WAC, and there is some pretty good competition there."
Seattle U finished ninth at the conference meet in March and saw senior Kevlyn Richards qualify for the World Championship Trials later this month at Indianapolis after she made it to the U.S. Olympic Trials last year.
"They're a really welcoming and fun group," Bock said. "They have a new coach, Craig Nisgor (entering fourth season), and he seems to be trying to build the program up so that it can compete at the top level. He seems really excited about the direction that the team is going."
Bock said Nisgor's coaching style is similar to that of former BBST coach Todd Edison, and that was something that drew her to Seattle U.
The Redhawks recently announced 10 swimmers from throughout the Western United States had signed with the program for next year.
"We are very excited about our incoming class of women for next year," Nisgor said in a press release. "It is an extremely talented group and we know that they will make an immediate impact in every aspect of our training and our meets. ... Six of these women have already done times that would rank in the all-time top five here at Seattle U."
Bock is among those six swimmers.
Her best time of 57.54 seconds in the 100 backstroke would currently rank second on the Redhawks all-time list behind only a 57.15 turned in by Francesca Reale in 2008, while her 2:03.16 in the 200 backstroke would be the best time in school history, beating out the 2:03.23 Rachel Leighter swam in 2010.
Both of Bock's times already stand as BBST records in the girls' 17-18 division and the Open Women's division, as does her time of 27.25 seconds in the 50 backstroke, which is not a collegiate event. Bock also joined with Audrey Shenkin, Sydney Wong and Taylor Shewchuck in 2011 to break the club's 400 freestyle relay mark with a time of 3:35.78.
Bock focused solely on swimming for BBST as a senior, but before that she helped the Squalicum girls' swim team to 2A state titles in 2009 and 2010.
Individually, Bock won the 2A title in the 100 backstroke in 2009 (1:01.16), 2010 (59.45) and 2011 (57.61). She also was part of the Storm's 200 medley and 400 freestyle relay state titles in 2010 and a 400 freestyle relay crown in 2010.
She said she expects to continue to focus on swimming the backstroke for the Redhawks and may even swim a little in the 200 freestyle.
"I know they're going to have some different techniques that they're going to want me to swim with, but I also know I've got a pretty good base going in," Bock said. "I'm really excited to get started."
Bock said she plans to major in Sports and Exercise at Seattle in the hopes she can get into physical therapy as a career.
"I'm interesting the body and how it works and how you can help it work with sports physical therapy," Bock said. "I've seen a lot of friends go through it, and it is amazing how physical therapy has changed their life. (Former Squalicum swimmer) Camorah King had a shoulder injury, and it was cool to see all the exercises she did to build it back up and how that helped her become an even better swimmer."
But for now, Bock said she is just happy to have the recruiting process behind her and four seasons of swimming for the Redhawks ahead of her.
"It was definitely a stressful process," she said. "I'm glad I got a chance to swim Division I and that it is so close to home. ... I'm not sure I ever had a moment I decided I wanted to swim D-I. I guess I just always kind of expected I would. It was what I really wanted to do."
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
A look at the Whatcom County student athletes who either have signed National Letters of Intent or are planning to be student athletes in college:
Student athlete High school Sport College
Rachel Albert Sehome Basketball Western Washington
Natalie Anderson Sehome Cross Country/Track Lewis & Clark College
Elsa Balton Sehome Sailing Western Washington University
Bo Banner Sehome Football Central Washington
Kelli Bannerman Ferndale Soccer Saint Martin's
Emma Bennett Ferndale Track and Field Whitworth University
Grace Bills Ferndale Volleyball Whatcom Community College
Carlee Bock Squalicum Swimming Seattle University
Isaac Bogart Lynden Soccer University of Redlands (Calif.)
Ashley Bolick Blaine Softball Lewis and Clark College
Brooke Bonsen Lynden Softball Bellevue College
Tom Bradley Blaine Cross Country/Track San Francisco
Brooke Branigan Bellingham Golf Western Washington
Jeremy Brockmann Meridian Baseball Centralia College
Casey Bromet Meridian Soccer Corban University
Mariah Brown Lynden Basketball Whatcom Community College
Aaron Burke Bellingham Baseball Oregon Tech
Rowan Chappell Bellingham Cross Country Evergreen State
Joe Charbonneau Bellingham Cross Country/Track Seattle University
Alex Check Bellingham Baseball Bellevue College
Luke Christianson Lynden Baseball Lower Columbia College
Lisa Collander Sehome Sailing Lewis and Clark College
Alex Conley Ferndale Football Whitworth College
Noah Cyr-Moore Sehome Basketball Westmont College
Bret DeGraaff Lynden Football Whitworth University
Josh DeVenere Ferndale Cross Country Skagit Valley College
Andrea DeVere Squalicum Soccer Biola University
Nathan Dunford Mount Baker Track and field Trinity Western
Cambie Edwards WCC Basketball Southern Oregon
Gus Evans Squalicum Swimming Denison University
James Fakkema Blaine Football Central Washington
Marcus Fakkema Lynden Lacrosse University of Great Falls
Gina Flint Squalicum Track Washington
Brittany Gappa Squalicum Cross Country/Track Boston University
Patrick Gibson Squalicum Cross Country/Track Stanford
Mario Gobbato Blaine Football Montana State Northern
Daniel Goebel Sehome Baseball Westmont College
Sydney Gray Meridian Cross Country/Track Pepperdine
Patrick Gregory Sehome Swimming Cal Lutheran
Tanya Haggen Sehome/WCC Soccer Redlands University
Alexa Harrington Squalicum Tennis Upper Iowa University
Lindsay Hodgson Sehome Cross Country Whitman College
Maddi Hommes Lynden Volleyball Bellevue College
Bella Hoyos Bellingham Tennis Whitworth College
McKenzie Impero Nooksack Valley Volleyball Whatcom Community College
Kahokuloa Kauhi Sehome Volleyball Everett Community College
Devon Kollmyer Lynden Soccer Simon Fraser
Tyler Knutsen Sehome Baseball Hawaii-Hilo
Josh Kraght Lynden Football Portland State
Bridget Kruck Lynden Christian Softball Mesa (Ariz.) Community College
Charlie Linneman Sehome Basketball Carleton (Minn.) College
Erika Locker Ferndale/WCC Basketball Central Washington
Brice Longanecker Sehome Baseball Yakima Valley
Forrest Longanecker Sehome Baseball Yakima Valley
Hannah Mankle Sehome Soccer Whatcom Community College
Jake Manson Sehome Baseball Yakima Valley
Max McGuinn Meridian Football University of Puget Sound
Meagan McIntyre Sehome Cross country/softball Scripps College
Relijah McMillan Meridian Track Skagit Valley College
Nathan Meppelink Lynden Christian Basketball Biola University
Matt Meyer Lynden Football Washington State
Larkyn Nelson Bellingham Soccer Peninsula College
Caleb Newman Lynden Football Army
Daniel Nielsen WCC Basketball San Diego Christian
Tanner Olson Lynden Baseball Lower Columbia College
Audrey Orem Bellingham Golf Western Washington
Bree Park Meridian/WCC Basketball Southern Oregon
Zoe Peterson Squalicum Track and field Carleton College
Dillon Quintana Mount Baker Cross country/Track Gonzaga
Austin Rapp Sehome Football Washington State
Abbi Rautenberg Meridian Golf Lewis and Clark College
Kyler Reed Squalicum Track and field Skagit Valley College
Matt Richard Bellingham Baseball Linfield College
Chad Richter Meridian Baseball Centralia College
Palmer Sandel Blaine Football Western Oregon
Auden Schilder Bellingham Soccer Washington
Jake Schmidt Meridian Track Skagit Valley
Dak Shagren Lynden Basketball Northwest University
Rachel Short-Miller Bellingham Soccer Hesston (Kan.) College
Nick Smith Sehome Tennis Pacific Lutheran
Austyn Sprague Ferndale Baseball Everett Community College
Melissa Stadt Nooksack Valley Basketball Skagit Valley College
Zach Stalin Mount Baker/WCC Basketball Masters College
Nicole Statham Blaine Soccer Hawaii-Hilo
Michael Steele Ferndale Soccer Oregon State
Brooke Steinberg Bellingham/WCC Soccer Western Oregon
Lindy Swanson Nooksack Valley Basketball Whatcom Community College
Amanda Tapia Lynden/WCC Basketball Vancouver Island University
Hanna Tarleton Sehome Track and field Claremont McKenna College
Jack Thompson Sehome Sailing Western Washington University
Jade Thurston Bellingham Soccer Whatcom Community College
Kayla Tiemersma Lynden Christian Basketball Whatcom Community College
Truman Van Dalen Lynden Christian Basketball Skagit Valley College
Thomas Vazorka Bellingham Football Idaho State
Cody Velthuizen Lynden Chistian Cross country/Track Trinity Christian
Zach Vis Lynden Football Montana
Emily Visser Lynden Christian Cross country/Track Dordt College
Ryan Wallen Blaine Golf Wyoming
Sydney Wasilewski Meridian Volleyball Walla Walla Community College
Alex Wilkinson Sehome Volleyball Whatcom Community College
Corrie Wilson Ferndale Softball Saint Martin's
NOTE: To report a Whatcom County student athlete that is planning to continue their playing career in college, please email email@example.com or call 360-715-2286.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.