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The562’s coverage of Long Beach Wilson Athletics is sponsored by Joel Bitonio, Class of 2009.
Wilson senior swimmer Sammie Hamilton is one of the top high school athletes in the city and one of the top prep swimmers in California, so she had plenty of college knocking down her door trying to earn her commitment. Hamilton took her time in the process, choosing from schools that included USC, Alabama, and Ohio State.
Ultimately, Hamilton settled on Kentucky after a thorough process, she confirmed in an interview on Sunday.
“It’s definitely been a long process, but I’m glad that I found somewhere that I just really fit,” she said. “I’m super excited. It’s going to be great.”
Every sport has a different recruiting cycle and different goals for the athletes and teams involved. For elite swimmers, the ages of 18-22 are critical to determining how far they can go in the sport. Hamilton said that her faith in the Kentucky coaching staff’s ability to help her develop was a huge motivator in her decision.
“The coaches are the best and nicest people I’ve ever met,” she said. “They’re so knowledgeable, and I knew they’d be able to take me to a different level of swimming in college. I knew when I got there it was where I wanted to be.”
Kentucky has a new coaching staff that’s come over from Princeton, with an advanced approach to development that Hamilton is hopeful will unlock her potential even further.
“Everyone on the team is optimistic about learning from these coaches, I’ve never seen it like that,” she said. “It’s a great vibe, everyone is really excited. You can tell everyone is happy to be there and that’s something you need when you’re training long hours every day.”
Hamilton is the unquestioned top aquatic athlete in the prep scene in Long Beach, and set Moore League records last year while leading her Wilson Bruins to a third consecutive Moore League title. Hamilton finished third in the 500 free at the CIF State meet, the highest finish by a Bruin in the modern incarnation of that meet. She’ll be one of the top swimmers in the state this year with a chance to win a title, and will have her pick of league records to try and take down in her senior campaign.
While her family has enjoyed getting to see Hamilton’s historic high school run–which includes breaking the Huntington Beach Pier Swim Record and winning eight silver medals in the Maccabiah Games–she said her parents were all for her leaving SoCal for college.
“My mom and dad were Team Kentucky because that’s where my grandparents are from,” she said.
Hamilton also said she’s aware that it will be a bit of a culture shock going from Long Beach to Lexington, especially since she’ll be the first California swimmer to join the program in a big.
“I didn’t know what to expect when I went on my visit but I went in with an open mind and really liked it,” she said. “The city is beautiful, and there’s a lot of rural areas so we got to go and see horses. It’s going to be really exciting.”